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Strategy For The Short Term by Dheeraj Sinha, MD for India & CSO for South Asia, Leo Burnett

In addition to designing a ‘short-term thinking model’ for marketers to navigate the pandemic, Leo Burnett also launched three specialisations including Leo Burnett Consult, Leo Burnett Design & Leo Burnett Digital, informs DHEERAJ SINHA, Managing Director for India & Chief Strategy Officer for South Asia at Leo Burnett.

Photo Credit :

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Dheeraj Sinha

With the onset of the pandemic, how is Leo Burnett adapting to the new ‘abnormal’?

Within a week of the pandemic, we developed a ‘short-term thinking mod- el’. We called this the 0-3-6 model that was rolled across clients through 0-3- 6 workshops. The premise of this framework is that everything in business planning and marketing strategy is focused on the long term. The short term is at best a derivation of the long term and left to tactics. However, in times such as these, its critical to think about our short term, strategically. We need to think this in the context of the emerging culture — fuels that are shaping people’s behaviour.

Through more than 50 workshops across clients, we helped them think about their strategy for the ‘now’, the next (three months) and the after (six months plus). These strategies were developed, keeping in mind the core values of the brand and the most relevant culture fuels that they could leverage.

We would have devel-oped over 50 campaigns across categories during this period. Most of these are innovation platforms, product/service innovations or new business ideas to help our clients navigate this new ‘abnormal’.

What were the growth opportunities that you saw in this phase? 

We  have three levers of growth. First is winning new business mandates and increased scope of work from current clients. We have won over 12 new business pitches in this half of the year. Most of these have bought into our ability to bring data, technology and creativity together.

Secondly, we continue to grow through our Power-of-One practices, especially  Prodigious and Content Factory. With Prodigious we have managed to shoot films remotely such as our Spotify campaign. Many clients have worked with Content Factory to create conversations with their audiences in these times.

Finally, we have launched three new specialisations that are in great demand in these times. First is Leo Burnett Consult. This is our specialised strategy offering that brings data, technology and creativ- ity together to help solve business problems. We have several projects run- ning under this on brand architecture strategy or launch strategy. Second is Leo Burnett Design, which is our specialised design and identity offering.

The third is Leo Burnett Digital, which provides a seamless segue into digital platforms as its overseen by the same leadership team that runs their brand. Leo Burnett Digital provides our clients seamlessness between the high-level brand thinking and com- munications platform and their digital execu- tion.

What are the learnings on how brands should behave in these times?

We have these four learn- ings that we use to help guide our clients through these times.

Stand-up and  be counted: This is an ever- evolving world, there is no such thing as a perfect stance in these times, but we need to be there in these tough times and not sit on the fence.

Compassion: We all need to do what we can - whether shifting our manufacturing line to making masks and sanitizers or removing paid firewalls from our premium content. All our efforts must smell of compassion.

Authenticity: We need to come from a place of authenticity, being real, being direct, even vulner- able at times. We are all in it together.

Make a difference with what we are best at: Our acts and communication must be aligned to what the brand delivers to its customers. We must make a difference with what we do the best.

What are some of your campaigns where creativity has impacted business outcomes?

We at Leo Burnett are focused on creating ‘act-based communication’ which brings alive the brands’ purpose like we did for HDFC Bank. Using the outer grid of the bank’s logo, we cre- ated physical markers on the ground to help people maintain the WHO prescribed ‘social’ distance while waiting in queue at a shop or an establishment. A simple but effective way for the brand to make an actual difference on-ground.

Another great example is #WeddingFromHome for Shaadi.com, where we conducted virtual weddings during the lockdown. This is as an initiative wherein the wedding ceremony and celebrations were conducted virtually allowing couples to celebrate their wedding with all the fan- fare. The initiative is now turning out to be a service that the brand will offer even post the lockdown.

What are the changes that you are seeing in the communications narrative?

Brands need to take on greater empathy. If there is one thing that the world needs today, it is positivity. You see that being reflect- ed in most brand commu- nications right now. At the same time, brands need to do away with tokenism — generic advertising will no more be effective.

The key for brands is to help navigate what the new normal will be through real solu-tions. To add value to the lives of consumers, we must focus on building solutions that cater to the need-gap created by the current crisis. You can’t go around today, pretending that everything is the way it was. Depending on what your area of expertise is, brands today need to stand up and get counted.

Do you believe the industry is already in the recovery mode? 

We are certainly witness- ing an upward swing. The festive season is around the corner and is expected to help boost most businesses. We are currently in the middle of working on several key campaigns and planning stages for the coming months. While it may not be enough to make up for the losses of the past few months but there certainly will be an upward curve for the industry.