Dainik Bhaskar’s 3-pronged innovation strategy draws elusive advertisers to print

By Pradeep Dwivedi

Innovation as a concept is almost always understood as something that:

  • Gets published in the newspaper as content with a difference.

  • Generally is physical in nature and has a direct connect with the appearance of the property.

  • Seems like a fall-back option to opening up advertiser participation and generating additional revenues.

That may be fine and is indeed an essential part of the industry’s value-added business. But we, as a group of professionals, must acknowledge that this concept of innovation has its limitations in terms of the advertiser categories that can be targeted.

When it comes to advertisers in categories that believe they don’t necessarily need to advertise in newspapers, we need innovation to change their minds. This is particularly true in emerging global markets, where reach of the newspaper or literacy is a constant issue with advertisers.

One such category in India is FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods). For a long time, it has been seen as a medium in which to push the brand’s tactical needs: from price-offs to contests, from trials to events. These are all important, but only in terms of immediate results and throughputs.

This inherent limitation, presumably by clients and agencies, became a stumbling block for publishers in India.

Obviously, we considered the media multiplier effect, but there isn’t any concrete evidence that it works. If you add the country’s cultural divergence, the difficulties grew manifold.

The only way to establish Dainik Bhaskar and its markets was to make innovation a must-do while pushing the business agenda with clients and agencies.

Following that logic, we then adopted a three-pronged strategic approach for FMCG brands:

  1. Make innovation a process. It started with thought leaders putting innovation and innovative strategies in every Dainik Bhaskar initiative during discussions with these clients. The presentations almost always had a “Did you know?” component in them, which helped gain a “thought” foothold in the client’s domain.

    To achieve this, we embarked on a campaign of creating a greater awareness of the markets we represented and the potential business these markets offered. These —  coupled with insights about buying patterns, disposable incomes, and women’s readership trends — helped us “deliver the market” to clients.

    We achieved several first-time advertising campaign breakthroughs, especially from multi-national brands in the personal care and hygiene categories.

  2. Question the status quo. Everything was questioned — conventions, practices, evaluation mechanisms, target insights, etc. This was a critical aspect, because it at once helped us establish a “partnership” and expert positioning with the clients and agencies.

    Typically, the FMCG category is reach-driven and expects the same deliveries from major media. While print does deliver rapid reach build-up, this is not the only parameter of evaluation.

    We made a series of presentations to clients on the real value of print, which included reaching out to the more literate consumer who is a role model for the bottom of the pyramid consumer.

    One major achievement of this strategy was that we managed to bag several “thematic brand-building campaigns” — a deviation from the regular scheme/price-off campaigns. Several premium brands in foods and grooming segment were brought into the fold.

  3. Build true partnerships. This was the proof of the pudding stage. Ultimately, the medium is supposed to deliver on certain parameters.

    We put together a business accountability model wherein the client was able to measure ROI, deciding the optimum levels of advertising needed in a particular market to get their business numbers.

Lastly, we put into place a “risk and reward” initiative to drive reluctant brands. The model was simple: We will “underwrite” a part of the campaign cost through space investments in the campaign. We will measure the outcomes based on performance across three to four key parameters, and the hence the balance “at-risk” client investment will be paid to us accordingly. This includes an additional incentive for promotion, if we outperform the benchmarks.

This was a bold move (the first time ever in India), which convinced clients we were indeed serious in helping brands enter the emerging markets successfully. A leading multi-national company was our partner in three such projects, implemented over the past 18 months.

Some of the FMCG majors we now work with are Hindustan Unilever, P&G, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Reckitt Benckiser, Marico, etc.

 Our especially dedicated FMCG vertical (DB Connect, or Dainik Bhaskar Connect, which is a specialised sales and marketing unit that drives engagement, innovation, and ideation in key customer segments and categories), headed by Sanjay Mani and his team, was mandated with pursuing the agenda of bringing in large FMCG advertisers within the Dainik Bhaskar fold.

Today, Dainik Bhaskar has emerged to become one of the biggest print media companies, with a large FMCG advertising presence that is growing annually.

Importantly the number of FMCG clients and brands that are investing in emerging India (what we call tier 2/3 towns, smaller metropolitan areas) is increasing at a great pace. It is a statement of the confidence our clients have expressed in our differentiated way of operating and focus on common goals.

This is just the beginning though. There is more action yet to come. But one thing is certain. There are no fixed rules, no pre-meditated methods. It is about continuously evolving to the newer and emerging truths of the advertisers’ brands and our readers.

It is about continuously re-inventing ourselves, because there are myriad changes happening while you are reading this.

Innovation is the key. It is the only mantra that will work. 

About Pradeep Dwivedi