Establishing The Link Between Revenue & Marketing Spend

Marketing leaders from Maruti Suzuki, IBM, DBS Bank and ValueFirst tackle the big question of whether data and digital are reflecting returns on marketing investments

In today’s marketing world, decisions are no longer guided just by hypothesis and past experiences. Data and analytics are now emerging as key determinants of generating better marketing return on investment (RoI) and providing insights that can lead to effective business strategies and decisions within an organization, not just in the marketing department but across teams. 

It is no hidden fact that the auto sector has been deprived of its fair share of sales.   In 2019, the sales were down by 18 per cent. However, Q2 2020 recorded better month-on-month numbers. Speaking on how digital paved its way into Maruti’s strategies in the past months, Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director - Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki explains, “In stress times, consumers shift to more trusted and reliable brands. We may say that the new currency for brand differentiation is trust. However, there has been a big shift in consumer behaviour where they now expect the entire process to be digital. Our study revealed 26 touch points between when ‘he wants to buy a car’ to when he ‘actually buys a car’. We have now 24 of them digitalized. I am convinced that digital has become a big thing, not just in our company but the entire system.” 

Earlier, while the linkage between sales and money spent was difficult to establish, today, data has made it possible for us to know which sale has been touched by marketing. 

“IBM’s marketing has very sophisticated engines where every dollar spent is well calculated. Performance-driven KPIs have become important for us. It has made it possible for me to have a seat on table and know that this is the RoI to the dollar spent.  The big change that Covid has brought is that earlier, marketing information and the data available were used for better marketing strategies alone. But today, the data available can be used by marketers for pricing, product and its design too. This is the power of data today,” says Deepali Naair, Chief Marketing Officer, IBM India & South Asia

It can be said that sectoral experiences, when it comes to making digital and data work harder, is not too different but some did see much faster change. Banking, for example, was one of the first sectors to adopt digital technologies, not just for marketing but also to measure consumer preferences. 

Akash Deep Batra, Head - Marketing (Consumer Banking), DBS Bank elaborates on how data and marketing touchpoints have worked for the company. “Data and digital are the operating principles for the industry that I represent. It is so engrained. The question today is more about how to leverage automation and AI and how to use data to deliver experiences that are superior. We aim towards a more hyper-personalized and superior experience throughout the journey. Eventually, the relationship of humans with money has to get better and that can only happen when u deliver rich experiences,” he asserts.  

Bringing in the perspective of a communication business, Vijayant Dhaka, Senior Vice President, ValueFirst observes how data has worked for the sector. 

“The crisis has been an opportunity for businesses like ours. Small businesses can now look at focusing on RoI and efficiency through digital. From our perspective, last two quarters have been better. We have seen an immediate surge in communication sent through our platform. The only challenge I see is of data residency and multiple sources of data. While everyone wants to automate everything possible, there are a few areas that cannot be automated. Data attributes and touch points are too scattered across many biz units,” Dhaka states. 


With brands and agencies shifting to digital modes of consumer experiences, Srivastava mentions how a more ‘phygital’ model works better for his company, “For auto, since it is a high value purchase, it is a discretionary purchase. That is why, the touch and feel becomes important. Hence, we talk of phygital. A study shows, while 92 per cent of the consumers can complete a car buying experience digitally, they still prefer physical even today.” 

With the scope of services expanding through AI/ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning), experiential learning has also increased. Talking on how it has panned for the BFSI sector, Batra says, “We believe in phygital as well. It will be a model going forward for sure. The intention is that banking must become invisible and integrated, and consumers are moving towards that too.” 

Often from a technology company, marketers try to extract the maximum benefits they can. On been asked where IBM draws the line, Naair points out, “We respect the laws of the land. We work together on the right usage of data and that is where we draw the line. We believe in having an ecosystem that is so compelling that the client does not leave it. Data privacy and data sharing protocols are going to be the key to how organisations drive it.” 

Dhaka sums up by emphasizing on the importance of refining data. “Haven’t seen happening very often. But it is transitioning. Hoping to see grow more faster pace,” he suggests.  

The marketing leaders were speaking at the BW Top 50 Marketers Summit and Awards, hosted on February 18, 2021.