Sohini Sen - Marketing Is Inseparably Intertwined With Ceaseless Technology & Data Advancement, and With Consumers Who Are Continuously Evolving (Senior Manager - Brand Marketing, upGrad)

Sohini Sen

Sohini is a young leader in the field of Marketing & Communications specializing in brand strategy, integrated media planning, consumer research, public relations, and corporate communications. She’s worked across Education and BFSI sectors building memorable campaigns, driving business results, and creating social impact. She is a winner of 30 under 30 by PR moment in 2021. 

1. Tell us about your upbringing, background & journey.

My scientist father & homemaker mother raised me with the virtues of rationality, persistence & honesty. A curious mind from the start I naturally fell in love with Science. My love for numbers guided me to pursue Statistics in my Graduation days.

I did my first Marketing campaign at the age of 19 when I managed to convince the authorities at St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, to start one more fest in the institution - Science Fest. Being one of the youngest secretaries of society did scare me to take up the mantle of building an event from the ground up, and that little fear helped me to keep the guards high & work harder to make the institution’s first-ever Science fest a success & a recurring event.

Graduation days not only planted the seeds of intrapreneurship, but also made me fall in love with Marketing, which subsequently led me to pursue my MBA in the field, and eventually land up where I am today.

2. How did you choose this field & what led you to rise to the highest echelons?

My love for numbers, with my natural bent towards storytelling, found a common playground in Marketing. 

It was through college placements that I entered into the corporate world and landed my first job in Marketing. This is where I was acquainted with the compartmentalized, yet beautifully integrated, worlds of Brand, Performance, Content, PR, Analytics, etc. Navigating from one to another, I am currently stationed at Brand Marketing and Public Relations (PR). And, I’m barely scratching the surface of it, far from reaching the highest echelons!

What has helped me traverse so far is sheer hard work, presence of mind & strong relationships that I have forged along the way.

3. What advice do you have for people who want to rise in a corporate environment?

Marketing is inseparably intertwined with ceaseless technology & data advancement, and with consumers who are continuously evolving. Given the dynamism, you can never allow complacency to build in yourself no matter how many years of experience you have or how high your seat is. Trust me, there will always be a bigger fish, someone sitting on an even higher chair, who’ll render you redundant if you’re not self-learning, reinventing, acknowledging your current limits, and striving towards overcoming them.

The other tip for surviving and thriving in the corporate world is to build your inner circle of positivity. Without sounding too philosophical, here’s what I’m trying to say - Not every day is a good day, and not every colleague is motivating.

There can be short to long periods where you’ll suffer from demotivation & delusion about the road ahead. The fail-safe in those days is your own inner circle of positivity. It can be your hobbies, side-job, friends, mentors - anything that gives you positive energy to bounce back, get to the grind, and emerge as a winner. 

4. How has branding changed over the years?

Most will be familiar with the genesis story of Branding - In Norse ‘Brandr’ means ‘to Burn’, something livestock owners used to do to their cattle, in order to showcase ownership. What started literally as making a ‘mark’, over a period of time transcended to figuratively leaving a ‘mark’ on consumers.

Initially, branding was a rich wo/man's game - whoever had the deepest pockets would buy all media ammunition to shout the loudest and create an aura around itself. The biggest transition happened when the power shifted from advertisers to consumers, with rising of the internet, social media - channels for two-way communication, where a single negative word of mouth can be powerful enough to scar a brand.

Hence in the digital era, branding today is more authentic, compassionate, and innovative, with the focus lying on selling emotions and values over products. Branding is no longer about creating a piece of communication highlighting the constituents of your products in milligram, but about voicing your stance for a cause your target audience resonates with; thus laddering your way into winning their hearts and leaving a deeper mark. 

5. How should one approach a new partnership for success?

There has to be a synergy between the partners where both are deriving real value from it. No matter how hard we sell an idea, if the partner does not see the value, the deal will either fall through immediately or will not be sustainable in the long run.

I make my notes to chart out the clear synergies before initiating the conversation. Here, choosing the right stakeholder from the partner’s end also becomes important. Not every employee in the organization will be the right audience for your deal. Thus finding the right connection becomes crucial.

Of course, there has to be a certain amount of ‘selling’ to be done. No matter how synergistic the partnership is, you’ll need razor-sharp articulation skills to land the message right. All of the above tactics, and more, comes through practice. Don’t worry, no one’s never had a failed partnership!

6. What are your future plans?

Immediate focus in my career remains to elevate the brand stature for upGrad in India and build its brand globally while impacting millions of working professionals across the world through lifelong learning.

As Marketeers, we are trusted with high budgets to ‘sell’ a product. Why sell a pistol, when you can use the same skills to sell a pen? The latter is not only mightier but has a greater social impact. This is what my future plans are - to continue using my talent and acquired skillsets to drive impact at scale. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll have my own organization catering to the welfare of street animals, my first love, second only to Marketing!

7. Which is your favorite book and why?

‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely

Ariely had suffered third-degree burns in over 70% of his body in an accident as a teenager. An incident that would have derailed most in their lives, made Ariely see a positive - lying in his bed for three years he started studying human behavior. Why do nurses pull off bandages quickly? How many options (of creatives) we need to show our boss before s/he approves one?

‘Predictably Irrational’, a treasure trove of behavioral psychology, answers these questions & the why’s behind them. "My goal, by the end of this book, is to help you fundamentally rethink what makes you and the people around you tick. I hope to lead you thereby presenting a wide range of scientific experiments, findings, and anecdotes that are in many cases quite amusing. Once you see how systematic certain mistakes are - how we repeat them again and again - I think you will begin to learn how to avoid some of them."

Sohini Sen

Sohini Sen, Senior Manager - Brand Marketing, upGrad

Social handles: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram

Interviewed By: Nishad Kinhikar

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