Sumati Nagrath is an experienced digital content and consumer experience strategist with over a decade’s experience across media and consumer goods sectors. Her specialty is in developing insights and data based creative and content strategies to build communities, brands and revenue.
In partnership with Creatively Squared, Sumati has produced over 500 original photo and video assets to support global markets for Enfamil and other Reckitt brands. Scaling the production of global assets has enabled Reckitt to engage with its consumers more effectively by using locally relevant content that resonates.
We spoke to Sumati to learn about her career path and how she continues to innovate in her role as a marketer and customer experience expert.
Hey Sumati! Thanks for chatting with us today. Can you tell us about your background in marketing?
I didn’t start out in marketing, originally I cut my teeth in traditional media working in print journalism. After training there I followed some other academic pursuits focused on communication and media studies, and along the way did a stint in consumer and ethnographic market research.
I’ve always been really interested in understanding the consumer mindset, hearing people’s stories and learning what is important to them. My training as a journalist has really helped from that perspective—in never making any assumptions.
How did you get started in digital marketing?
My foray into digital began in 2015 when I started working with one of Southeast Asia's fastest-growing parenting platforms. Initially I worked as an editorial strategist and then quickly moved into the branded content space, working closely with clients to develop their content strategies.
During that time, one of the big things for us was understanding our consumers and guiding brands to create engaging and captivating imagery rather than just using product pack shots. This led to challenges in getting brand and legal approval for appropriate images to use so we had to find an innovative way to source the content we needed.
Our solution was to reach out to our internal team and ask for staff members to supply their own family images enabling us to build an asset bank of authentic images that would be more relatable for brand storytelling. At that point in time no other brands were marketing like this so it felt quite revolutionary!
I was there for almost 4 years and then moved to Reckitt where I’ve worked for the last 3 and a half years. I am part of the global CARE team that leads the way in building direct 1:1 relationships with consumers. We are a digital first team.
What's really interesting to me about digital is that you aren’t just competing with other brands or even categories. Now you are competing for consumer attention and are up against the likes of Netflix, TikTok or whatever the latest entertainment or social platform is to create the best digital experience. Marketing is now not just about winning in your category–but competing to hold consumer interest–and offering consumers the right value exchange in that moment in time.
What's the biggest challenge right now in your role?
The main challenge is establishing new ways of working within large organisations. It’s harder to scale new thinking and adapt ways of working to accommodate new technology and consumer behaviour.
The old measurements of digital success, such as reach, engagement and clicks, are well established but now that we can plug directly into digital sales channels we have access to all these new metrics and data points.
It’s an ongoing challenge for us as marketers to get buy-in from the business to be able to demonstrate the impact of these new formats and strategies.
If you had double your budget tomorrow, how would you spend it and why?
I’d start by producing a lot more video content for sure, that’s what most people are consuming online—short videos like TikTok and ones that show our products being used in real life.
I think the demand for video content is quite high for us, but rather than having a brand telling you how to interact with a product, people want to see how others are using it.
Secondly I would put spending into multi-variant testing across platforms to drive precision marketing—and then use the resulting data to build out an even more engaging customer experience.
What's your favourite thing about being a marketer?
I really enjoy understanding the mindset of the consumer, it’s fundamental to being a good marketer and key to doing your job properly. I also get excited about the new formats and digital tools that you get to play with. Being a first mover within the business and within the category to test and deploy innovative content formats is always fun!
And what's your least favourite thing?
My least favourite is the struggle to be agile in the context of strong regulatory corporate governance that is essential in large organisations. We can't turn our back on it and need to find solutions that still enable us to adapt to new initiatives at speed.
How do you continue to learn to stay on top of things in the industry?
It’s often the partners that we work with that educate us a lot, they always have an eye out for the latest platforms and new technologies. I also like watching what the competition is doing. Boutique ecommerce focused brands are way ahead on digital, testing content and building end-to-end journeys that are super agile.
What's your greatest achievement during your career?
Rather than a specific project or accomplishment I am most proud of the mindset shift that I've been able to bring into teams that I work with – to be consumer first and data-driven when building a content strategy.
The other achievement that I'm quite proud of is introducing the business to new partnerships and ways of working that end up being successful and scaled internally. It’s very validating to see your initiatives integrated into the wider company!
If you could go back to the start of your career and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
I am doing a job today that did not exist when I was 21 years old. I got my first email account when I was 20.
My advice to my younger self would be: Be willing to take calculated risks. I only got to this place by learning on the job and in my late 30s. Learning how to read global trends and organisations is an essential skill and needed to manage your evolution and career path.
What's one thing that you believe that marketing that most marketers would disagree with?
I'm not a traditional marketer so a lot of things I think might oppose traditional marketers’ beliefs! For example I believe that we can no longer be sole custodians of our brands. If we are to work with Gen Zs they want to be part of the brand building experience. As marketers, letting go of control and democratising our brands is scary but we need to be willing to embrace that fear.
What are the problems you're trying to solve while working with Creatively Squared?
The primary objective was to just create better content, something that was more engaging and relatable. Creatively Squared allowed us to create brand assets that represented a wider variety of audience groups and formats in a very cost-effective way.
Having access to the network of creators around the world has enabled us to create a distinctive visual vocabulary at scale.
What were the other options you had for solving that problem?
Most digital publishers rely on stock imagery but it’s very limited in terms of what is available. The other problem with stock is that you don’t know who else is using the same assets and they could end up being published by a competitor.
The best thing about Creatively Squared is there is no risk of duplication so there is total peace of mind that you have original content and don’t need to spend additional time completing diligence checks to ensure no one else is using the same assets.
What have you been most impressed with when working with us?
The variety of talent and geographic spread of creators is incredibly valuable. The level of service has also been exceptional. If I've ever been unsatisfied with something I’ll always get a quick response and the team will step in and solve any problems.
What measurable benefits have you seen from using Creatively Squared assets?
When we use fresh imagery from Creatively Squared we always find that those brand assets perform better with higher click through and open rates.
The other major benefit is that we’ve been able to scale up markets that we didn’t have a strong presence in previously. Having locally relevant content produced gives our regional teams much more power to successfully engage their markets.
Creatively Squared has also helped us make great strides in promoting diversity and inclusion through our brand assets which are important to us as a company.
Do you have any favourite assets that we've sent through?
Getting babies into pictures is hard at the best of times so I’m always extra appreciative of photos where babies look engaged and happy! We’ve produced so many asset banks now that we have a multitude of wonderful moments and they always bring a smile to my face.
The styled product images have been successful too, I love the details and context of each composition. Each creator approaches the product shots uniquely, adding their personal interpretation, which helps us expand our own creative boundaries.
What's your advice to others who might be considering working with us?
It's not exactly advice - I’d just say go ahead and start!
The best results always come from being able to write a good brief and having realistic expectations. I think as marketers it can be hard to shake that traditional mindset where you are always assessing each asset imagining it on a billboard. We need to remember that most of our consumers will be looking at it on their phones!
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