In Conversation with Saket V. Rao, Vice President and Head of Brand, Housing.com
Let’s look at your success path; can you give our readers a bird’s eye view of your career till now?
I have always been a sincere student of marketing
In my first year of graduation by some stroke of luck (and academia) I stumbled upon this subject and it has never left me since. In early 2003, a group of four friends started a small design shop named SAPS (initials of our names, I am the first S). Since then, this is what I love to do.
An alumnus of Wharton School of Business’ – University of Pennsylvania, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Xavier Institute of Communications (Mumbai), I have been lucky and have worked on the world’s best brands and created a few on my own from scratch.
I would like to call myself a Brand Launch and Re-Launch specialist. To date I have launched Housing.com, Barclays Finance, United Health, Fragrance World (Official Perfume of World Cup endorsed by Mr. Kapil Dev), re-Launched MasterCard in Sri Lanka & Bangladesh, Videocon, Priya Kumar Training Systems and managed Citibank N.A., HSBC, Genteel Liquid Detergent.
I recently won the ‘100 Most Talented Global Marketing Leaders’ at the recently held World Marketing Congress (see here). I am also featured profile in CMO Asia’s – ‘Most Talented CMOs (and CMO designates) in India – 2015’ which also carried a quote by me on New Age Marketing. Also our launch campaign won 5 awards at the National Marketing Awards 2015.
#Lookup, an expression of Housing’s relentless optimistic nature, is a huge success. Can you give us an insight into the campaign?
In essence it is a very simple idea.
Its roots lie in the category (real estate), which is grey and pessimistic. We as a brand wanted to uplift the perception of the category in the consumers’ mind. Our product was already state-of-the-art and revolutionary. We just needed a simple expression to capture our endless pursuit of optimism and ‘Look Up’ seemed to be the best phrase that captured it.
Once we cracked this, through our advertising we showcased a consumers’ journey as a couple who has just moved in together, to a couple searching for a house, to a pregnant woman and her husband ready to bring a new ‘life’ into their ‘lives’ and finally a kid’s boundless imagination where she is teaching alphabets to her toys. All this was shown with a house as a key character in their journey; a place where optimism takes birth.
At the end of the Housing.com campaign we achieved category leadership along with 2mn+ App Downloads, 16k Twitter followers with 32k mentions, 597k Facebook Fans, 100k LinkedIn followers and YouTube Video Views reaching a staggering 4.2mn views.
We are really happy with the trust bestowed upon us by our consumers.
How and by what channels do you create an emotional attachment with customers to build brand loyalty?
Emotional attachment and loyalty are built over a long period of time. It requires a right mix of brand messaging and product delivery. Also depending on the nature of messaging you choose the right channels and create this effect. We used a simple yet effective route of OOH media dominance to create both emotional attachment and build trust.
What is your favorite advertising campaign in the present scenario?
Apple is one advertiser I have always admired. Their current campaign where photographs clicked by iPhone’s users are showcased on billboards globally is a campaign I really love. It is simple, tells a strong story, extremely effective and has a massive recall.
Do you think having a “Brand Character” is an important component of a successful branding strategy? Who is your favorite brand character?
A brand character requires a very huge investment in terms of time. People need to first register and then relate to it. Only if you are patient and persistent as a brand will it work for you. Else it can be extremely expensive and ineffective. Undoubtedly ‘Ronald McDonald’ is the most memorable and probably the most recalled brand character of all time.
What is the biggest issue for your brand today and how are you addressing it?
The current task at hand is to build the brand. A great product needs to reach out to maximum number of people. My job as a marketer is to support this endeavor. This is the current task at hand and we are at it.
What measures do you take to ensure a better brand positioning vis-à-vis your competitors? Please give us an example.
We are a simple brand. Our biggest competition is actually nothing but consumers’ not so positive perception of the real estate industry. We will be successful the day consumers perception of the industry changes and we are the reason for it. We are on the path of building a world’s leading brand alongside a future ready product.
Which aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
Our floor is full of laughter and noise. It gives me a great high to be working with people who are truly full of life.
What is the most challenging part of your job? Learning and Unlearning at the speed of thought. I am constantly learning new things and unlearning some old ways of approaching things.
What kind of qualities do you look for in people joining your team? Passion for all things marketing, an eye for detail, thinking on the feet and of course eternal optimism.
A piece of advice for someone considering a career in Branding Keep your eyes and ears always open. You don’t know where you will find inspiration for your brand.