Purple BlueHouse, Punt, Eggfirst, 2626, Schbang, Moshi Moshi and Brewhouse aren’t the latest hip restaurants in town, with ponytailed and over-tattooed waiters hovering around art deco tables. They represent some of the new-age, digital-driven agencies that are transforming the marketing landscape of New India.
Some are design-led, some are content-led, some are martech-led, and some are a little fuzzy around the edges and difficult to define, but all have one thing in common: the new consumer with a smartphone at the centre. Creating and consuming massive truckloads of data that most traditional digital agencies don’t really know what to do with.
In my last column, I explored the good old days of digital marketing agencies and highlighted some for their stellar contributions. However, on a separate note, as Karl Lagerfeld, designer says: ‘There is nothing worse than bringing up the ‘good old days’. To me, that’s the ultimate acknowledgement of failure.”
The landscape today
So what’s the digital marketing scene now, who is pushing the envelope for brands? First of all, we need to revisit what we mean by brands. I think there have been sea changes in the brand landscape since the first decade of this century.
The newer brands are very fluid now, and we are living in an age where brands are created even before they go to market. In fact, some brands create markets. Mostly thanks to technology (which is set to go 5G soon). Also, as Harshil Karia of Schbang was telling me the other day, “The first ten years of digital marketing was about getting customers in. Now, the focus is on what to do once they are in.”
Here are a few new kids on the block helping brands get customers to not only get in, but stay in.
Purple BlueHouse is a creative lab with a difference. The founder, IIM Ahmedabad alumnus Prerita Chauthaiwale, is blending science and art to create what she calls ‘SciArt’, which will “re-imagine storytelling and design for brands”. They are already collaborating with SciArt experts and illustrators and are using it to explain complex production processes for niche audiences.
Explaining how SciArt helps brands, Prerita says, “Brands have increasingly started to focus their strategy around ‘purpose’. They are finding new means to communicate their stories on how their products and offerings are focused on sustainability, wellness, conscious consumption or circular economy. SciArt could potentially be a powerful means for brands to ‘go back to basics.”
Punt, co-founded by ex-Webchutney founder and digital wunderkid Sidharth Rao, is a new age mar-tech company connecting the dots between IT companies who don’t understand marketing and traditional media buying networks who can benefit from smarter, tech-influenced buying decisions. That dot, Rao claims, is worth $100 billion.
Next up, is Schbang — India’s first global network — that didn’t even exist seven years ago. Despite being one of the biggest markets for the advertising industry, India hadn’t created a global agency network on its own. Harshil Karia’s Schbang recently opened its London office with a bang (bad pun), with rapid expansion plans in Europe, the Middle East and SE Asia. Aatmanirbhar Bharat, to the core!
Then there is T9L, a company that builds companies. Fahad, a serial tech entrepreneur, and his band of merry men and women, partner with select tech founders and help them bring new ideas to life. They are not a marketing agency like our other friends but invest in new ideas.
So far, they have built platforms for start-ups across fintech, consumer internet, media, and health sectors — start-ups that are now valued at $1 billion-plus. (They also operate a multi-million dollar fund for a Japanese VC, but that’s not within the scope of this article).
I’m a great fan of specialist content creators like Momspresso.com, India’s largest content and influencer platform for women, which has 60,000 creators, 42 formats of videos, and in 10 languages.
Rise of in-house
Finally, the in-house creative agency is fast becoming the port of choice for well-funded start-ups. Brands such as Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, Oyo Rooms, and Ola, all have internal creative and marketing teams, firm in the belief that an in-house team would be closer to the action than an ad agency (which handles multiple clients, could).
With the rise of a digital-first narrative across brands, I think this makes a lot of sense for execution-heavy brands. Piyush Pandey continues to have the last laugh though. The fun TV stuff, the ‘brand’ work, still continues to be shipped out to him.