In Conversation with Lokesh Kataria

Head of Marketing, Mattel India
Tuesday, 10 Oct 2017
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Lokesh Kataria is the Head of Marketing at Mattel India since August 2016. Prior to this he was the General Manager (Brand Communications) at Reliance Jio Infocomm from September 2014 to July 2016. Lokesh has also held various senior marketing positions at Coca Cola India for nearly six years. He has also worked with organizations like LG Electronics India, ICICI Lombard General Insurance & Samsung Electronics India.
About
Lokesh Kataria is the Head of Marketing at Mattel India since August 2016. Prior to this he was the General Manager (Brand Communications) at Reliance Jio Infocomm from September 2014 to July 2016. Lokesh has also held various senior marketing positions at Coca Cola India for nearly six years. He has also worked with organizations like LG Electronics India, ICICI Lombard General Insurance & Samsung Electronics India.

The digital campaign, My First Birthday Initiative, is a pointer towards effective communication between the brand and consumer. How did you come up with an idea like that?

Parents, today, are digitally savvy and discerning, gaining access to details on products like never before. They are spending an increasing proportion of time online by consuming information, learning on the go as well as making purchases.

When we studied the behavior of millennial parents, especially moms, on social media channels including our own Facebook page, we realised that they were keen to share their experiences with other young parents. There is a sense of joy and pride associated with their baby’s growth journey and millennial moms were eager to share their stories, seek and give advice to their cohorts.

The initiative was created with the aim to engage closely with millennial parents and give them this opportunity to share and celebrate their child’s key milestone.

Given that digital media platforms have been around for quite a few years, how should brands evolve to make effective changes so that the brand's ethos is communicated to consumers?

The digital media has certainly evolved over the last few years. As proliferation of smartphones and broadband has increased, and digital media became accessible to many new regions and populace, the way content is created and disseminated has also evolved.

We’re seeing that digital media is becoming the first port of call to not only research, verification and information but also to buy and share brand, product and service experiences. As information becomes more democratized, brands have realized that hard-selling products is less effective than engaging with audiences in a manner that is authentic.

Audiences engaging in real-time also do not tend to stick with one piece of content for a long time. It is important for brand to understand the audience fully and connect with them based on their likes and interests. Brands have to remain relevant and real, all day, every day.

Why is My First Birthday Initiative one of the most important brand campaigns for the company?

At Fisher-Price, we believe that the best possible start begins with love and care. Fisher-Price is a brand that is most trusted by parents across the world and we in turn understand their emotions and the value of creating memories with their new-born. With the launch of the My First Birthday initiative, we aim to further strengthen the bond we have with new-age parents.

We have made strategic investments in various digital platforms to ensure that we are able to meaningfully engage with new moms across touchpoints and they can have the same uniform experience across platforms. The programme ties in well with our integrated strategy where we are leveraging social media, digital platforms and ecommerce to best educate, influence and engage our consumers. This initiative gives us the opportunity to directly interact with millennial parents – hear their stories, emotions, experiences and learn from them.  Moreover, the programme reiterates our vision to enable parents to nurture their child's overall development in the most engaging ways.

There are numerous studies on parenting. What are the shifts, the consumer behaviour patterns that are emerging, in your point of view?

The days of helicopter parenting have, indeed, long been replaced with more inclusive decision-making and informed choices available to parents, today, thanks to the advent of the connected world. While there is a higher value on educative experiences and holistic development of kids, parents, especially millennial parents, do not believe in micro-managing a child’s time.

Increasingly, we are seeing the concept of millennial dads emerge in India as well. The millennial dad wants to be, and is involved in decisions related to raising their children more than his predecessors ever were. This trend is on an upswing, more so because of an attitudinal change rather than any societal pressures or norms. We see more and more fathers playing Barbie or Hot Wheels with their children and we think this trend is here to stay. Both parents will be equally involved in the education and play aspect of their child’s upbringings.

With rapid digitization and adoption of e-commerce, you will see mothers engaging in dialogue with each other even more. Mothers are now reading reviews of toys online, they are also sharing their own stories. So, that is putting a lot of focus on the quality of delivery in the marketplace.

What sort of research does the company do to bring out toys that are relevant for children, not just in terms of entertainment but also children's cognitive development?

At Mattel, we are committed to investing in product development. We invest heavily in research and developments to solve fundamental problems that parents face with baby products and child development. It is our constant endeavor to not only keep the child engaged but also make life easier for the parents by providing best-in-class, safe and quality toys that aid in the be overall growth and development of the child.

Some of our recent efforts have been geared towards addressing and creating products that age and grow with the child, adding value at every stage.

How did, for instance, the recent Hot Wheels Labs campaign emerge to ensure children enjoy the logic of physics?

We launched Hot Wheels Labs, a learning initiative with select schools across the country, as part of our effort to aid learning for children across multiple platforms. The syllabus, referred to as Speedometry, is a fun and engaging way to learn about concepts such as energy, force, and motion. Students also learn scientific and engineering practices such as analyzing and interpreting data.

This series of lessons incorporates many Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles and the 5E model of instruction. The UDL design principles ensure diverse points of engagement during learning and multiple ways that learners can demonstrate or communicate what they understand. The 5E Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) supports students as they ask questions and conduct experiments to find the answers. The 5Es integrate hands-on activities that help foster conceptual understanding and inspire students to explore further.

How should advertising strategies get developed for brands specifically targeted towards children?

I strongly believe that brands need to demonstrate responsible advertising, especially when the primary consumers are children. They are more vulnerable and less able to decipher subtext or gauge the intent of the advertiser.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, "Research has shown that young children – younger than eight years – are cognitively and psychologically defenceless against advertising. They do not understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value." Therefore, being real and authentic is more so important.

How should brands develop and identify effective collaborations and partnerships? How does the tie-up between Fisher Price and MomJunction help to reach out to your target consumer?

Mattel is a creations company that inspires the wonder of childhood. It is our mission to be the recognized leader in play, learning and development worldwide. In India, our priority has been to educate parents/consumers, over time, about the value of a good-quality toy and the importance of toys and games to holistic growth and development of children.

We also recognize that we’re talking to a digitally-savvy audience, not just in urban centres but increasingly across smaller cities and towns. Parents today are turning online to research, purchase, share and recommend products and services. They put a lot of faith in their peers and qualified experts. So, whether it is reviews on ecommerce sites or questions on forums, we understand that our primary target audience is looking online for answers.

We have, therefore, invested in platforms that ensure we are providing relevant information, ease of access and a consistent experience to parents looking for the best products for their children. This is what has driven our partnership with e-commerce marketplaces including Amazon, Flipkart and FirstCry as well as with communities and forums. 

What is it that the young parents aspire for in the case of their children? What are your studies reflecting about the target group behaviour? 

Even as attitudes and behaviours evolve, I think the basic tenet and the universal truth of parenting will remain unshakable – every parent wants to give their kids nothing short of the best.

Internet penetration has helped to educate consumers, there is a much greater focus on play with purpose today. We are able to engage with mothers in that conversation of what is good for their child, why should they buy this toy versus another one.

Earlier, there was little awareness about the developmental benefits that a toy provides. Today, parents are more involved in the journey; they are looking for educational or rather developmental benefits that come with each toy.

The focus on advertising and marketing strategies for a brand requires brands and agencies to work together. How should they work together for effective brand communication with the consumer?

A successful brand strategy requires an uncompromised combination of a few essential ingredients: absolute clarity of vision for the brand, thorough understanding of the audience, an insights-inspired campaign thought and flawless creative execution thereof. While brand custodians must steer the overall direction for the brand, agencies bring the synergies and specialist expertise to ensure that a campaign is seamlessly conceptualised and delivered.

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