EXCLUSIVE | Arvind Saxena, NEC: Brands must become the people they’re trying to reach

image-EXCLUSIVE-_-Arvind-Saxena-NEC-mediabrief.jpg

An exclusive conversation with Arvind Saxena, Head of Marketing and Communications, NEC Corporation India, on NEC’s digital-first mindset, ‘NEC Makes It Happen’ campaign, the challenges the company braved through 2020, and more.

The expertise of Saxena — a Digital Business- and B2B Marketing transformation leader with 13 years of experience in the Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) industry — includes marketing across verticals, creative design thinking principles, data & analytics, martech, and market intelligence.

Saxena has worked with brands like Airtel, Sify Technologies and TATA Communications, and has successfully transformed B2B organizations in Telecom, Cloud & IT services, SaaS, Fintech & Payments industries across APAC, MENA, North America, and Europe markets by delivering inorganic growth across the enterprise, SMB, and public sectors.

How much of your digital marketing is for customer awareness, and customer acquisition? Are you experimenting with Martech now?

The coronavirus pandemic dramatically accelerated the digital marketing transition as more and more consumers moved to online channels. As someone who has gained significant experience working for B2B brands, I believe in striking a good balance between traditional, digital, and other emerging tech solutions to enable businesses to deliver customized digital engagement that underpins their customer relationships.

Keeping in view the situation last year, we decided to boost our martech efforts, including significant aspects like ad tech, marketing automation, database marketing, and analytics. We took a plunge into the martech transformation by hosting our biggest annual event, ‘NEC Visionary Week,’ digitally for the very first time. The success of this global-scale event is a testament to our robust martech approach.

Having a digital-first mindset, we understand the role of digital in delivering effective communication for our customers and employees. Hence, we strive to deliver on the promise of a more inclusive integrated marketing approach in line with our overall value proposition.

Keeping this in mind, we recently launched our digital-first campaign titled “NEC Makes it Happen,” which seeks to strike an emotional chord with our audience through social and digital channels. This campaign showcases the digital transformation happening in the country with NEC’s disruptive technological solutions.

As we move along, we plan to shift our marketing priorities according to the changing buying personas. With creative storytelling, genuine reputation management, and interactive feedback mechanism at the center of our strategy, we plan to deliver the greatest return to bottom-line results.

EXCLUSIVE | Arvind Saxena, NEC

How do you see the year ahead affecting businesses and lives? What should any professional and business do, and be mindful of, to remain afloat and to grow?

The number of users adapting to the digital ways has jumped significantly, which no one expected at the beginning of last year. Various reports suggest that despite the slowing economy, the digital marketing segment has seen a growth of around 20-27 percent by November 2020. So, in my opinion, the transition towards digitization will continue this year as organizations look to future-proof themselves.

An increasing number of businesses will offload consumer interactions to new technologies like voice search, chatbots, conversational banners, AI, etc. Furthermore, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in marketing, social listening, and smarter customer segmentation will become mainstream.

Earlier, ‘Price’ used to be one of the top parameters for any technology investment decision. Now organizations also consider parameters like stability, compliance, quality, and future-proofing solutions capability for business growth in the ‘New Normal’. The traditional Indian belief of ‘cheapest and best’ may not hold true anymore in the technology ecosystem as most matured enterprises are willing to ‘pay a premium for good quality’.

Prioritizing empathetic marketing, authentic customer engagement, omnichannel experiences, and transparent communication across the board can guide marketers towards creating a conscious brand presence, which is deemed a necessity now. Brands can turn to digital signals and data sources to deliver personalized and meaningful customer experiences for accelerating digital-first customer behaviors. As the line between marketing and other strategic communication diminishes, brands must become the very people they’re trying to reach.

As we enter into this digitally transformed marketing era, having the right tools and insights in place is more important than ever. Embedding data and analytics into sales and marketing efforts have become critical to ensure maximum ROI. To reach prospects at the right time, with the right information and the right product or service, it is crucial to emphasize personalization and curated content. We definitely see a move towards quality over quantity as we move into a post-Covid-19 world.

To summarize, it’s time for brands to embrace the human spirit in all digital forms, walk the talk and cut fabricated initiatives.

image-EXCLUSIVE-_-Arvind-Saxena-NEC-mediabrief-1.jpg

Where do you think NEC as a brand stands in the overall reckoner in your area?

NEC as a brand is committed to using digital technology to help solve problems in the real world, embracing critical values like safety, security, efficiency, and equality. As a global leader in integrating IT and network technologies, we have witnessed multiple economic cycles at NEC. And over the years, we have continued to stay relevant and dedicated to our purpose of contributing to the development of safe and secure societies.

Through NEC laboratories India, we continue to emphasize our brand legacy of focusing on innovation and R&D as we engage in innovating solutions that contribute to the development of India and the globe’s economies. Built on an ecosystem of AI-based solutions and Big data, we are engaged in creating new ideas and solution concepts by analyzing data and identifying challenges- in the fields of public transportation and logistics, public safety, and cashless payment, to name a few.

As India continues to reinforce its position as the third-largest start-up ecosystem globally, it gives us immense pride to mention that we are increasingly working with them to explore new solutions for commercialization jointly.

The amalgamation of human creativity and awareness with technology is the most powerful tool that we leverage to maximize human imagination power. Our global and Indian leaders continue to contribute to the industry ecosystems and co-create digital solutions that channel AI development into the building of a digitally inclusive society. Hence, our brand narrative underpins our strong business story acting as a catalyst in our transformation. Furthermore, our brand promise is reflected in the actual customer experience delivered.

With our workforce being our biggest brand advocates and our customers’ belief in our prowess, we stand out in the marketplace. We take pride in articulating our narrative to the audience with passion and authenticity.

image- EXCLUSIVE _ Arvind Saxena, NEC -mediabrief (2).jpg

Tell us about your recent or any prominent campaign that you are proud of?

We recently launched our digital-first campaign, ‘NEC Makes It Happen’. A first after our rebranding announcement, this campaign exemplifies our purpose of creating the social values of safety, security, fairness, and efficiency.

At NEC India, our teams have been transforming businesses and lives for the past 70 years. From telecommunications to manufacturing, transportation, logistics, or public safety, we have been a frontrunner in driving digital transformation across sectors. Our teams worked relentlessly to devise solutions and make commoners’ life efficient during the pandemic — initiated paperless boarding at leading airports, assisted local authorities Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) in the set-up of centralized COVID war rooms, etc.

Our brand is what our customers say it is, and this campaign very well captures brand attributes and showcases the impact of our efforts in the lives of more than a billion Indians.

Regardless of the communication medium, we always concentrate our efforts towards aligning our branding efforts to the service we deliver to our customers and society. For instance, our latest campaign, ‘NEC Makes it Happen’, reflects our India team’s strong commitment and innovation mindset. We believe in the power of ‘Less is More’, stick to a unique and authentic identity refraining from a large-scale marketing gimmick.

image-EXCLUSIVE-_-Arvind-Saxena-NEC-mediabrief-3.jpg

What were the challenges NEC faced last year? Did you, as a result, have to recalibrate the marketing strategy and tactics plus mediums to support the overall business objectives?

The pandemic led almost every business to address the tough questions and introspect the brand values and purpose. We saw the world adopting what NEC has been practicing as a DNA and as a way of life for 120+ years now —- realizing a sustainable digital society that empowers everybody irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, or ability to experience happiness, fulfillment, and more prosperous lives.

Staying true to our purpose of “orchestrating a brighter world”, we ensured sticking to our basics:

‘Lean on our brand’s DNA’: 

Taking a personalized approach, we strive to build an emotional connection with our audience as to how we are with them in these challenging times and beyond through our innovative “solutions for society.”

  • How we are making the world a safer place –contactless boarding, safe buildings through compliance monitoring solutions, city safety and surveillance through our biometrics and facial recognition solution, intelligent and safe transportation
  • Solutions for society upliftment- online education for islanders, high internet speed, telemedicine
  • Healthcare solutions-Preventive digital healthcare services for citizens of Bihar
  • e-governance- digital services to around 900 million citizens living in rural areas of the country. These AI and data analytics-driven initiatives will improve service experience across various sectors, including finance, education and healthcare, logistics marketplace

Employee Advocacy:

We leveraged the selling power of our most valuable spokespeople: our workforce. Enabled by a powerful internal communication strategy and sustainable employee channels such as social media, blogs, and research papers, we successfully built a dynamic interconnection between the brand and our employees, thus turning them into brand advocates.

Deeper Collaboration between Sales and Marketing:

Fine line between sales & marketing has diminished. As a marketing function, we now play a more front and central role in the business acquisition process. In these times, where most customer meetings are happening in the virtual environment, marketing has stepped up to be the partner to the sales team in closing deals.

As the first and foremost responsibility, we recalibrated the marketing ROI as per the changing business dynamics while keeping the customers, partners engaged, and employees aligned to the brand purpose. Alongside our teams reassessed business models and buyer personas, we shifted our marketing approach from tactical to strategic i.e., ensuring long-term trust. We re-defined our internal communication strategy to keep our employees engaged and motivated during these challenging times. Focused external and internal communication strategy & resilience together helped us drive business growth last year.

All these combined led us to reinforce our continued leadership as a holistic ICT solutions provider.