Amandeep Singh Kochar is a marketing and branding professional who steers business for VMLY&R in the position of Business Director. He has worked as a Business Head in KRDS India, a social media and mobile agency which experienced triple-digit business growth in Indian Market. Amandeep started his career with Tata Consultancy Services as a Management Associate, getting hands-on experience in Business Development & Pre Sales. With Brandmovers, Amandeep worked on building an agency based on "The Creative Strategy". An alum of IFMR Graduate School of Business at Krea University, Amandeep has joined InsideIIM previously at the Konversation Cafe, New Delhi. In this conversation, we will explore the realm of marketing and branding with Amandeep.
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Amandeep, the world has transformed immensely since last year. How would you say the field of Marketing and Branding has evolved with such change?
This pandemic has been completely unprecedented in ways that no one has ever witnessed something like this in their lifetime. It has transformed the world in many ways and the same is true for marketing. Take a look at this popular cartoon by Tom Fishburne.
I have been working in the space of marketing transformation powered by technology, data and commerce for many years, and let me tell you why this small cartoon resonates so much with the industry right now. The pandemic took many companies by storm, especially ones that hadn’t started rolling out their digitization and marketing transformation plans. And rest, as you say, is history.
Every business has latched onto the power of technology to reach out to customers in a country laden with lockdowns. On the customer side, we have witnessed a surge in adaptation and usage of mobile and technology in many aspects of life – right from shopping online, to use of payments to spending time on social media platforms and gaming. The list is endless.
What would you say are some skills that individuals wanting to build a career in marketing in today’s time must develop?
Many of you must have noticed the rise in online courses such as digital marketing, data analytics, AI, and machine learning, to name a few. Today, you cannot be a marketer or even a successful entrepreneur if you do not understand the digital ecosystem and technology powering the world of business.
First, AI and ML will keep making strides in coming years as it evolves and finds use cases in consumer journey and touch points.
Second, the amount of data signals being generated will keep increasing exponentially. All of the information and added noise can derail anyone’s focus.
So, for me, the young students need to learn the skill of keeping sharp focus and building a deep understanding of the problem at hand. The ability to focus and make sense of the problems would be a skill that would make you a winner in the professional world.
Tell us an interesting incident from the time you worked with celebrities like Virat Kohli and others during campaigns with Brandmovers where you were the Director of Brand Strategy and new business.
When you work with celebrities, you usually feel weird. On one hand, you are excited about working with them and getting to meet them. On the other, it can be quite exhausting because in reality you have very limited time with them and you have to ensure you get the shoot done as per the requirements.
Virat Kohli is a true professional on the set. Contrary to what we hear about celebrities, he is a very down-to-earth individual. He is very focused on the set, just as he is in the field.
Another incident I remember is having to fly down to Mumbai for a scheduled shoot with a celebrity. When I landed, there was a storm and rain. I ended up being locked inside the airport for almost 12 hours and then having to fly back to Delhi at midnight. The shoot, of course, had to be postponed.
Apart from celebrity related stories, my favorite is about a brand calling me for a super “urgent” and “important” brief meeting. And the brief was that they wanted to build their own “Instagram”. I was speechless for quite a few minutes. I am not sure what happened to their ambitious plan.
Let's talk about your early experiences in the world of marketing. From starting your blog in 2011, writing about brands and marketing ideas to Brandmovers, handling big brands yourself, how has the journey been for you?
When we started the blog called Fresh Marketing Idea, our mission was very clear. Keep looking at products and brands all around us and come up with out-of-the-box ideas for them. At that time, we were really driven, and I remember being excited about every idea that came to me, and I would put it out there. As I started progressing in my career, there came real world problems – “constraints” as we call them. Brands have their guidelines, frameworks and do/don’t lists. The product innovations have long cycles and then there are distribution and margin complexities. It was an immense learning experience for me about how the real world operated.
Sometimes I would get dejected because what we as team thought as great and clutter-breaking ideas were rejected in the process. But one of the biggest learnings I had was that the best ideas arise amidst constraints. Once you understand that, you would start enjoying the work and also appreciate the effort that goes into every aspect of marketing.
From here, you shifted to VMLY&R as Business Director. What does Amandeep do in a company like this and how much marketing is actually involved in your current role?
There are two main parts to it. Being a business head, you are responsible for the end-to-end business unit. That means bringing in new business, hiring the right team, working with cross functional teams and subject matter experts, managing the projects, and keeping your P&L balanced.
The second one is being able to immerse yourself in the business challenge of your client. For example, I have had to work with brands ranging from beauty to premium beverage to farm equipment. The product, category, and customers of these brands are completely different. You have to become a true partner for the client so that you understand their business, and then translate the challenge to your internal teams to enable them to design the right solution. You need a very wide range as a marketer to do this. At VMLY&R, we work at creating connected brands – that means I need to have a broad level understanding of not just brand communication but also of customer experience, technology, data, commerce, and media.
You grow as a professional every single day in this kind of role.
Let’s get back a bit to your time at your B-school. You were part of IFMR GSB at a time when the global recession was on the surge. A somewhat similar situation that the world and India faced last year. In hindsight, how do you look at your decision to opt for an MBA degree back then?
For me it was a great decision, I must admit. During my engineering, I was clear that coding is not going to be my game at that point in time, but I learnt a great deal about the skill of structured thinking. When I started my MBA program at IFMR GSB, my expectation was to start learning how the world of business and corporations functioned. The whole concept of groups, teamwork, and bringing in your core strength to contribute to the overall success of a project are few of the many things I learnt during that time.
The world will always go through its cycles of ups and downs; there is nothing we can do about that. But building your skills for the real world is in your hands. Treat your MBA as a simulation of your life when you start your career and become good at what you really love.
You were part of the marketing club at your B-school, where you have handled activities and events. Was it around this time that your interest and love for marketing grew?
I was fascinated by Marketing even before I started my MBA. The marketing club allowed me to meet wonderful seniors when I was in my first year. One must remember that we are the sum of the company we keep, and that’s what clubs are meant for. I am so happy to see the progress the marketing club has made over the years at IFMR GSB. The level of events and activities happening over the last few years have been impressive.
Tell us about some of the key learnings in the last one year that you have had and how the world of marketing and business has coped with it. What are some of the future marketing strategies and trends that are emerging according to you?
The world has been looking at India as one of the top markets especially after China in terms of new business models and the way we adapt them to suit the local nuances. We are truly seeing the rise of what we call 3 V’s – Voice, Vernacular and Video. In the world of marketing these 3 V’s will become pillars to success for brands.
Apart from that, AI has been finding new applications everywhere from hyperlocal to conversational AI to optimizing performance of creatives and media campaigns.
Looking back, do you think it was a good decision to opt for a B-school degree at a time when the financial world was looking unstable? Would you recommend the same for students now when we are looking at situations even grimmer for the business world?
Every crisis or recession also brings out a new set of winners. You can look at it with pessimism or you can look at it as an opportunity. We are at a juncture where technology and digital media are truly transforming the consumer’s life. As we go through the transition, the winners will be the ones who understood the shifts and successfully upskilled themselves. B-school can do that for you, as long as you are mentally prepared to make the best use of it.
When you are studying, I would advise you to start dipping your feet in the real world. Find like-minded students and seniors, get the guidance of your professors and launch a small venture. Don’t just read and solve case studies, apply those learnings in real life. It has never been as easy as it is today to launch your own ecommerce store, create amazing content on digital to fuel your brand, and be a true DTC business.
Any parting message for the aspirants out there who are not sure about their choices of B-school or domain at the moment?
All I would say is – do not overthink. You are at that stage in your life where you are supposed to learn and experiment. It is the time where you must be a sponge – absorbing whatever you can. Do you think every CEO or successful founder has his or her life figured out?
You will be surprised to know the answer. :)
Make an informed decision before you rope yourself in to this institute, which will be a life changer when you come out of it. To be part of the thriving b-school experience of IFMR GSB, click here: https://bit.ly/34J5kQ6
To learn more about Amandeep's experiences with marketing and branding, click here!