Ashwin L - I Think Marketing Will Go Back to Being a Bit More Creative (VP Marketing - MoEngage)

I think in the coming years there will be a bit more balance between the “creative” and “data” parts of marketing.

Tell us about your background, journey & story.

I lead marketing at MoEngage. MoEngage is an insights-led customer engagement platform, trusted by more than 1000 global consumer brands such as Ally Financial, McAfee, Flipkart, Nestle, T-Mobile, Travelodge, and more. MoEngage empowers marketers and product owners with insights into customer behavior and the ability to act on those insights to engage customers across the web, mobile, email, social, and messaging channels. Consumer brands across 35 countries use MoEngage to power digital experiences for over 900 million users every month.

I started my career in sales, with Wipro. After a short stint, I moved to a startup in the gaming and animation space which failed. I then worked for a few years at large companies such as Akamai and Verizon. For the last ten years, I have been a marketer in SaaS startups such as MobStac, Eka, and now MoEngage.

What are some of the biggest challenges & failures you have faced in your career?

I moved from a well-paying job at Wipro and into a startup, without doing thorough due diligence. It turned out to be a mistake as the founders were not committed enough - In fact, they hired people knowing fully that they did not have the financial resources to even pay salaries. In addition, this was the second half of 2008, and the world was in the middle of a severe recession and jobs were very hard to come by. It was a challenging time and it took me a couple of years to get my career back on track.

In hindsight, the experience taught me a lot and I am thankful for the lessons learned.

What are some of the factors that made you successful?

I think timing and luck played a big role. Having said that, I think I was also mentally prepared to take a bit of risk and grab opportunities when they came by.

Marketing has changed a lot over the decade, what do you think will be the future of marketing?

I think marketing will go back to being a bit more creative. In the last decade or so, marketing has become a lot more intrusive and digital. There are just too many messages on too many channels. Since a lot of marketing is digital, brands are obsessed with analyzing customer data points, measuring everything, and endlessly optimizing campaigns.

As a result, I feel that we are somewhat missing out on being creative and authentic. I think in the coming months, more and more customers will rebel against “intrusive and spammy” tactics, and force marketers to be more creative, relevant, and authentic.

That is not to say that the digital and data and analytics will go away. I think in the coming years there will be a bit more balance between the “creative” and “data” parts of marketing.

Voice has been heralded as the biggest growth lever of the decade for Ecommerce. What are your thoughts about it?

I agree. In the “pre-digital” age, consumers and brands actually spoke to each other. Whether it was your bank or your local retailer - there was usually a human element to most of these interactions.

In the digital age, a lot of interaction between brands and consumers is entirely digital. In such a scenario, voice and video enable brands to replicate a bit of the “human experience” even in the digital world.

What is the most important skill set required for someone who wants to rise in their career?

The ability to put yourself in the shoes of your customer [or your team member or your peers or any other stakeholder].

Grit and Resilience: I think the ability to continue taking a few calculated risks, be open to possibilities, and do things outside your comfort zone - while absorbing the pressure/failure/challenges/self-doubt that comes with it.

Curiosity and the humility to keep learning.

What does your typical day look like?

I am a morning person. I like to get up a bit early, enjoy a hot cup of coffee and get some exercise before my kid wakes up.

I start work at around 10 AM, I try to keep the first couple of hours on my calendar free from meetings.

Afternoons and evenings are usually busy with meetings. In the evenings, I usually take some time to go for a walk with my family or play with my kid, followed by dinner.

I spend some time post-dinner catching up on some pending work or participating in the occasional meeting.

Which is your favourite book & why?

I don’t think I have “one” favorite book. But recently I have enjoyed reading a book called “Endurance” written by Alfred Lansing. The book talks about the failed attempt at crossing the Antarctic by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1914. It details how the ship “Endurance”, gets stuck in the unforgiving Antarctic Ice and the struggle of its 28 member crew to make it out alive. It is an amazing account of Shackleton’s leadership and how the crew worked as a team over two years to get to safety - without a single casualty!

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