BTL Baatein: Amit Sarda, Soulflower… Powered by VISCOMM

30 Jul,2015

Amit Sarda, Co-founder and Managing Director of Soulflower leads business development, finance and also doubles up as Head of Marketing. Sarda believes that gaining high level of customer satisfaction is very important and thus his focus has always been on attending to their concerns in the best possible way to spread his passion for what he does. For this, he personally looks after consumer experience and insight in detail across various customer touch points. Amit is an active member of the DMAI which works on data drive marketing and using his data analytics, is currently working on certain projects. Along with it, Sarda also heads as the President at Young Entrepreneur’s Society (YES). Since 2010, he has also been a Member at Regional Advisory Committee, Central Excise Department, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. For BTL Baatein, Dyanne Coelho speaks with Amit Sarda who breaks down the importance of BTL activities for a niche brand like Soulflower.

 

Tell us a little about Soulflower

Soulflower began in 2001, and we began through a retail journey. It is a brand of handmade natural aroma and body care products using natural ingredients customised for various skin types. It has been serving the marketssince 2003 and has now extended its reach to over 900 towns in India. We have now managed to break through to even Tier 3 and Tier 4 towns such as Naharlagun, Vijapur, Udhampur, Nilambur, Narsinghgarh, and Chapra to name a few.So we started in Thailand, but in India we started in 2003 with players like Shoppers Stop, Crossword, Pantaloons and other retail channels which are no more today, but primarily we started with Shoppers Stop. So that’s how the journey took off. In the year 2009, we started with our e-commerce.

 

In your opinion what is the importance of BTL in the consumer goods and services space?

So for us, BTL is primary engagement with our consumer, because ultimately whoever walks into the store, we believe that those consumers are there to shop and the only thing is that we need their mindshare and walletshare both. So when we say mindshare, we have to be on their mind, and walletshare means how much they will spend on our products and buy our products. BTL activities hence help us. We do a lot of BTL activities, which involves certain fun-based and learning-based activities that are Do-It-Yourself… Most of our activities are driven at a floor level.

 

Are there any specific products at Soulflower that you use BTL for?

Soulflower is an experience. We are a brand that believes in designing the experience, very few brands in the world do that. So it might be a soap, it might be a bath salt, it might be anything, we always believe that it is Soulflower that we have to offer to people. It’s not about offering them only a particular product, it’s a way of life. It’s the lifestyle that we have to look at. It is herbal, it has lots of botanical benefits, how it goes through the skin, mind, body, soul, everything.

 

Can you give a broad idea of your spends pie of ATL v/s BTL?

We don’t do any ATL activities. If you talk about commercial TV or commercial newspapers, we don’t do even a single advertisement. We do BTL and a lot of digital activations. But you can call the digital activations digital as well. ATL for us is very, very rare. We don’t believe much in ATL. As I said, we believe in engagement, we believe in a one-to-one. So we are very big online and there are lots of activities that keep on happening. So there is lots of engagement with the consumer even online. So you’ll never see an ad of Soulflower in a newspaper.

 

Can you also specify the range of activities that you undertake as part of the below-the-line advertising and promotion?

One activity we do is ring-a-discount, which we host at different Shoppers Stops in India. Ring-a-discount activation helps us to get a lot of new customers. If you ever go to Juhu Beach, if you’ve gone in your childhood, there is a place where people keep soaps and other things, and people are given rings and they play with the rings. You have to throw the ring right on the product. That is a game that gives you the chance to be a child again. And you see people of all ages standing in the queue to play that game. So the thing is that we try to create an engagement. Our engagements are always fun-based engagements where people have an opportunity to go back in their childhood and relish those memories. In learning-based activations we have activities where people learn how to use different soaps, what is the benefit for the skin, understanding the skin, so those activities are more towards learning about yourself. Then there are the DIY activities, where we give them a chance to create their own aroma. So we have multiple aromas kept on a display unit, where you can go, select aromas of your choice, understand which matches your personality, and you can actually create an aroma of your own. So tomorrow you can go and create an MxM aroma also.

 

The idea is that whatever is your personality, whatever you like in that moment, we help you create an aroma. So we have multiple activities, these are a few of the activities. We even have primary engagements, like now we are having the sale. What we did is we have created the Cootie Catcher. It is something which you play with your hand. We realise two things when people come to the stores, when a family walks in, one is most of the people are on WhatsApp or Facebook on their mobile phone, and the second deterrent is the kids. One is the parents want to shop, but the kids are not very keen to be there, they get tired and they’re not so happy about being in the store and they’ll make sure that they drag their parents out. We created this Cootie Catcher and we give it to small kids and to all the people who are on the mobile phone. So it gives them an activity to do, plus this Cootie Catcher has full information about our products and offers, and people are actually taking it and talking about it. People are messaging us about it; people also put pictures up on Instagram and other places. So the idea is how you engage people. It is more about having a relationship which is really one-to-one. This is the relationship we create through BTL activities, which is not possible through ATL. But in BTL you can actually make sure that you engage the customer there and then.

 

Do you prefer to do this through BTL agencies directly or via your existing creative/media agency?

No, we have our own inhouse team. We don’t use any agencies. These are very specific activities. You need someone as passionate as someone who has used the product and understood it. We have our own teams all over India whose job is to create this sort of activities and activations.

 

In terms of generating results especially from consumers and in B2B, do you find BTL a more sure shot avenue than ATL?

Any day! See ATL is a very mass thing. So when you do ATL, the thing is you’ve done the ad, if it works good, if it doesn’t you’re a failure and you lose money. In BTL the chances of it working are much better. The reach of BTL activity is very fast.     Suppose if we did a BTL in Kolkata and it doesn’t work, the same thing can be changed tomorrow in Hyderabad. But imagine an ad once it is gone on an ATL campaign, it is very tough to get it back, to retrieve it, because your campaigns are huge, the money which is spent is also huge. Dates are also blocked, you can’t change much. This is the advantage in BTL, you can change it. If it is not working, you can immediately change your ad, it’s easier to do. But on an ATL you can do it, it’s very tough. So for a brand which is a cult brand like us where you need people to experience the product, I think BTL is any day much better

 

While sales and salience are good indicators of its success, what are the attributes you look at to measure the success of a BTL campaign?

At Soulflower we work in a very different way. We work on collecting feedback. Definitely sales is one number which is one of the metrics, but really we don’t work at it that much. One thing which we really work on is the ‘wow’ factor. So when the message is delivered to people, or they get involved in an activity, and they love Soulflower and they say this was amazing, it was too good, this is the kind of expressions we look forward to. Suppose we receive 100 expressions from an activity, and if there are 80 expressions which talk about this, then we’re done. It is very important that the person experiencing Soulflower feels the wow and is left mind blown. We always crave for the word called ‘love’. People write to us, ‘We love Soulflower, we love the way you guys do things.’ We love this, we want people to know that. BTL activations give this better understanding of consumers.

 

There are many organisations that often do new launches almost entirely on BTL aided with an outdoor and/or digital blitz? Your view on this. Given rising media costs, do you see BTL managing on its own, without ATL?

I think there are two ways of looking at it. I think ATL definitely is important, but now it depends on your distribution system. So for example in India if you have 500 distributors and you have 1000 stores, or 5000 stores, then you don’t need any ATL, what you need is BTL that will happen in those 5000 stores. And in those 5000 stores if you touch 100 people, you’re touching 500,000 people. And if you can touch 500,000 people in India, I think that’s a huge number. If I have a one rupee product, then maybe 5 lac customers are not enough, then I need 5-7 crore customers, but if you have a good widespread distribution and the right set of stores, if you know exactly what you want to do and how to execute it, then BTL works perfectly fine. A balance of ATL and BTL can come in. I will not say that only BTL will work. But actual engagement happens only when you have the right BTL activity.

 

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