On advertising as a strategic management tool
In Bharti Airtel’s business model, the brand and its people are the most strategic assets. As its chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal believes in that and, as CEO, I also stand by it. Therefore, we invest heavily in both and we value both.
Talking about advertising, it is omnipotent. It helps in building a connect with all our stakeholders. It brings in customers, helps in retaining employees, building cost efficiency and, thus, boosting revenues. We strongly believe in the power of advertising, and that is the reason we are one of the biggest advertising spenders in the country.
Manoj Kohli, President and CEO, Bharti Airtel Ltd (Photo by: Jerome Favre / Bloomberg)
On Airtel’s advertising mantra
Advertising, especially on television, is the best mode for manifesting our brand message and our brand ethos. We believe in simplicity and endearment. Because our brand relevance stretches from a high-value customer to a farmer, a plumber and a carpenter, we think our message has to be simple and endearing across the spectrum. It has to appeal to all the customers, at the top end and at the bottom end. So, through our advertising campaigns, we seek to make our brand aspirational for all our target consumers.
Besides striking this connect, we aim at giving positive messages. Since connecting people is our advertising mantra, we try to send across a message of building positive human relationships and connecting people, societies and nations through our campaigns.
From an unknown brand more than a decade ago, we have become a household name today. Earlier, there were too many diverse strands in our advertising. We had too many sub-brands—such as Magic, India One and Touchtel. Then, we realized that having an integrated brand was probably a better idea. So, these brands were withdrawn. Also, we have expanded very fast and, with this, our advertising strategy has evolved in a systematic fashion.
To be sure, it has not been a conscious strategy. We have learned along the way. Earlier, we didn’t have a holistic brand communication strategy. This year, we are going to focus on integrated brand communication. This will include every sphere we wish to be present in—be it the enterprise space, broadband or direct-to-home services. Rural communication will also be one of our focus areas. This market is very important for us. Today, we are available in more than 300,000 villages, and this number will grow further. So, we wish to address this market with full seriousness. But, in this entire process, the objective is the same: To be the most aspired (for) brand in India.
On current trends in advertising
I believe that if we can’t be creative and differentiate our products and services from others, then there is no point in investing resources in advertising. Advertising that is not rooted in a strong creative idea, and that doesn’t help one’s brand stand out in the cluttered market, is wasteful.
I see a lot of such ads that have no creative depth or that don’t really stand out. This is not a good trend.
On what advertising can do
It can win the hearts of consumers. It can even influence and win those who are with other brands or are not using any mobile service. It builds confidence among employees and a sense of belonging with the organization. It also helps build a connect with society at large. Finally, a well thought out advertising strategy helps in connecting people with their country. For us, Airtel represents India, and our advertising stands for India. We want people across the world to identify the country with our advertising.
My favourite ads
During my childhood, I used to like Amul, Air India and Binaca’s ads. During my college days, the Pepsi ads were my favourite. At present, I like Nokia’s, Marico’s and Maruti’s advertisements a great deal.