Our Challenge is to Take the Store to the Door of the Consumer: Dalveer Singh, Dialogue Factory

Industry Watch | October 13, 2020 | Interview

Dalveer Singh Dialogue Factory

Dialogue Factory of GroupM is a leading experiential marketing agency that breaks market clutter through talkability, word-of-mouth and brand advocacy. EVENTFAQS Media reached out to Dalveer Singh, Head, Experiential Marketing - APAC, Dialogue Factory to know how the agency is coping with the pandemic, its key focus areas, new initiatives, challenges faced, future plans and more. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Events are virtual these days; how has Dialogue Factory tackled this and what is your key focus to function?

So, the last six months have been quite different for all of us. At Dialogue Factory, we were trying to see how to do more of digital along with the physical. But experiential format is all about physical touch, what we actually see and smell, and that's what events help you do.

Since last December, we were already working towards reaching more people virtually and that helped us stay focused on the digital, data and technology piece. So, in a way, it was a fast forward for us - what we were trying to practise in 2019 helped us in 2020.

Tell us about the various initiatives at Dialogue Factory to move towards the new normal. What were the biggest challenges faced during the pandemic and how did you cope with it?

The most important thing for us is our people and to keep them motivated. They are the ones that create ideas, campaigns and put these plans in place. So, we had a full-fledged programme, which we worked out with the help of GroupM India, about different ways to engage regionally and globally. All of us were also learning to work from home and how sensitive we are to the needs of people. We were all so used to doing these huddles, brainstorming, doing things together, which is now not there. At the same time, we also had a demand from clients to service brands that were looking to do things in a new and innovative way.

We then chalked out a programme called FEW - where ‘F’ stands for First (there are a few things that we are the first ones to do); ‘E’ stands for Effectiveness and Efficiency (we pick up things which are effective for the brand and efficient for our plan); and ‘W’ stands for Win Win (which means we win and so does the brand win)! How do I create them for my event for the brands and then for their consumers? We focused on FEW and planned things around it. We are lucky that our clients fully supported us on this. There were challenges around timelines, technology, how will it impact the consumers what are the measurements and so on; but a very exciting journey for all of us.

When schools are closed, children are online. How do I reach out to these kids? Stores are closed, so how do I take the store to the door of the consumer? There are fulfilment vans, starting with FMCG companies to fashion brands - people are buying stuff when you take the store to their door.

Share some insights and examples of work done for clients at Dialogue Factory in the times of COVID.

We have a huge portfolio of clients across FMCG, financial services, automobiles… you think of a category and we have clients who supported us. We started working with one of our large bank clients in the last week of April, to reach out to their premium customers. We started with a celebrity, as the bank had easy access to them, and did virtual events on Zoom. This celebrity was the bank's customer. Now we have moved to other influencers. For the same bank, we had programmes targeting their premium customers who are 50+ years of age, another for the first job-holder 25+ millennials, yet another for the teen kids of these 50+ customers. We've used different formats, from home studios, to content videos, to virtual events to webinars and podcast – a mix of things talking to these different types of customers.

Elsewhere, we used one of our DMPS where we can help brands find people by their location. Earlier, we used to do college programmes, but colleges are closed now. So we used our programme and the data from there to reach out to college students.

Similarly, mall activation was a big thing for us, and now malls are closed. So, we used the Access Places programme to get data from there, about people who are mall goers. We looked at data from December, January and February and found people who spent more than half an hour at a mall location; those are the audiences going to the mall.

Slowly it evolved. And as we got into, July, August, when the lockdown started opening up in different districts across the country, there were green zones, yellow zones and red zones. So, our entire planning involved three plans for the same brand – for red, green and yellow geographies and what they could do in each.

Now, with lockdown opening up at different places you can do a bit of physical activations, like outreach vans, because home has become the new epicentre.

What are the initiatives that you have on hand for the near future?

As I said, take the store to the door of the consumer. How do I create experiences while people are at home? How do I make them experience those brands? How do I do sampling and make the samples reach the consumer? Making people experience these things, while they are in the comfort of the home, is our new challenge. Also, with the mob mentality of doing webinars and virtual events, every other guy is doing it, what is the differentiator? How do you now get audiences to these platforms and keep it fresh? Then there is whole piece of data privacy, and how do I use data? How do I mind my consumers and be very sensitive to them?

You have been a big part of Kumbh Mela brand activations earlier. How is it going to be for Kumbh Mela 2021? Will on-air and digital be the only avenues available to brands?

There are still discussions going on with the Uttaranchal Government and they're still trying to figure out, although they’ve created 100+ ghats and bathing points. In terms of what all will be allowed, not allowed, that still is not confirmed. Most of the things that brands would do there is around purpose or visibility, i.e., static visibility. Also, since this is the first time there has been a pandemic during Kumbh, so you really don't know what sort of audiences you will get - Will it be 40 million? Will it be 80 million or 120 million? It’s all quite like the black box as of now. We will probably get more clarity as the Government says what all is feasible, what is not.
But yes, mobile would be a big thing, because you could then do location targeting. Radio would work too, for local people around that geography. Kumbh has over 90% audiences who come from other States. This time, the Kumbh is in Haridwar; so almost 95% of the audiences would be from other States. A huge number of people from South India usually travel to Kumbh, but this time I don’t know how many people will travel from the South, Maharashtra, MP and other States.

What is the quantum of monetary loss suffered by the industry?

It's been really sad for all of us. We don't have any machine to do events or activations or drive a rural marketing programme. It's all people-led - people aggregating people. In the first hundred days, it was absolutely dry. In terms of media, it is still absolutely dark for many companies.

We are lucky that we have a huge number of clients at GroupM and Dialogue Factory. But how do I keep these people occupied? More so people who are freelancers. That's quite a challenge. EEMA is doing many things to put SOPs in place to get events back into some sort of shape. They're trying to see how, as an industry, everybody comes together to make things move.

Dalveer Singh talks of adopting the ‘FEW’ programme at Dialogue Factory and uncertainty over the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, where almost 95% of the audiences come from other States.

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