~ Esha Mohol and Deepa Soman
Confluence of influence
“I like to think I am the only Indian (named) Jermina” says Jermina Menon, marketer and retail branding expert and the Chief Strategy Officer of Knowetic, India. Jermina talks about her journey through advertising, marketing and retail and how uses an interdisciplinary approach work with brands. Unfazed by finance and technology, she melds these into her knowledge of marketing. Growing up in a culturally diverse environment in Parel, Bombay, this Parsi girl was absorbing the ethnic influences of the city. Jermina says she is Bangalorean in mind, and Mumbaikar at heart. Jermina shares
Accounting to Account Management
Jermina’s professional career as a marketer began with Lintas. Given her Accounting background, the new joiner was given an opportunity in Accounts. She got an opportunity to work on the computerisation of the Finance Department.
Her background in finance and accountancy helped her surpass the fear of numbers. It made her result-centric and taught her fiscal discipline. Her advice young marketers to pursue at least a one year’s stint in Finance. This will help break mental barriers and fear for “numbers”. It will help develop financial acumen.
Keen to move to client servicing, Jermina got an opportunity to work on the Hindustan Unilever account, she learnt the importance of consumer research. Her career as a marketer honed at FCB Ulka under senior stalwarts like Ambi Parmeswaran. She then moved to Vision Express, a Reliance retail brand. Here she gained industry experience in a ‘roll your sleeves up and do’ type of a business.
Jermina acknowledges mentors like her first CFO, Shahrukh, Minita Saxena from Lintas, Chennai, Vijayan Menon and the late Abhinav Sharma from FCB Ulka, and stalwarts from the retail industry, Bijou Kurien and Sriram Srinivasan.
Founding Knowetic and keeping it simple
After 25 years of working closely with many renowned brands, Jermina set up Knowetic – a business strategy and marketing consultancy. She helps companies overcome business challenges to deliver results with a positive ROI.
“I was looking for a name which kind of said ‘simple, sensible solutions” says Jermina. “Knowetic” is a play on words on the Greek word for Behavioural Sciences called “Noetic” Sciences. The name is intended to cue the need for a balance between knowledge and technology as today, all marketing is digital marketing.
Simplicity and sensibility are at the core of her marketing style. “The best marketing campaigns come from a very simple understanding of the consumer or a very unique proposition of the brand. And if that is explained to the consumer in a simple manner, it echoes the most – which is my way of thinking and operating.”
Standout Career Experiences
Jermina discovered the power of digital marketing quite early when she pioneered the use of Facebook in 2010. She shares two standout experiences:
Mantri Mall : Jermina received a clear 3 line brief from Mr. Mantri of Mantri Developers, when she was in charge Marketing Operations for Mantri Mall, It was one of the largest malls of the country back in 2010. He said, “Jermina, I don’t want you to do anything that has been done before. I will judge the success of your idea by the number of malls that copy it. Also, after you’ve got that idea and become successful, do not repeat it.” She flourished in the environment of complete freedom with clear objectives. The marketing strategy involved adding a prominent mention of Mantri Mall’s Facebook handle – at a time when branding and advertising via Facebook was just emerging, and no other mall had tried it. Despite the odds of being located in the traditionally South Indian location of Malleswaram, it captured the youth’s demographic perfectly. The follower count upped to a thousand in just a day, which was extraordinary at that time.
Reliance Vision Express: In the second year of launch, the brand was threatened by a self-funded start-up that used 80% of its sales budget for digital marketing. The brand was Lenskart, With a classic operating budget of 6-8% sales and the challenge of being a single FDI brand with the inability to set up an e-store, Jermina deployed a guerrilla marketing strategy. They ran a campaign inviting people to book an eye appointment. Driving from clicks to footfalls, adopting a consistent follow-up system. a perfectly measured digital funnel allowed the brand to locate and customise interventions based on consumer insights. 80% of the people that walked into the store needed a change in the eye power. Insights from the campaign enabled an improved service experience by an intensive training programme for the retail staff and incentivising strategies.
On Being a Digital Marketer in Bangalore
Jermina attributes her tech-savviness as an outcome of residing in Bangalore. “We do everything on apps”, she exclaims. She revels in the opportunity to be one of the oldest members of young, vibrant digital start up communities. The youngsters are only too happy to help, showing her the way around new technology, while Jermina soaks in as she willingly shares of her marketing experience and expertise.
Staying ahead of the curve, finding out multiple applications, tools and channels in the market, Marketing experience and wisdom coupled with digital savvy. She is able get brands to harness social media features like search engines, shopping, reels and stories effectively to communicate the right message, and ensure the right engagement for the brand.
Digital Marketing in the Pandemic
Digital marketing has become more important in the new normal posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has provided Knowetic an opportunity for business expansion. More brands understand the need, relevance and impact of a digital presence. Digital engagement with consumers has meant shifts to online channels of interaction.
Good vs. Bad Marketing
At Knowetic, good marketing is anchored in consumer insights. To give an example of good marketing, Jermina tells us about their work with SMOOR, a luxury chocolate dessert brand based in Bangalore which is now expanding nation-wide.
“What we did was analyse consumer purchase behaviour for the first three months which gave us massive insights on what was happening. Interestingly, (that) also helped us come up with a lot more new product development ideas, allowing us to find creative ways to cater products to the different needs of consumers through different channels.”
To give an example of bad marketing, Jermina criticises an approach taken by one of their clients, where they underestimated the impact of the pandemic expecting everything to go back to normal within three months and expecting consumers to continue to respond to the traditional ways of marketing.
“The pandemic forced us to change. Feb 2020 was the last time the customer behaved the way he wanted. Acceptance was an issue, which is why agility plays a big role.”
Jermina defines personal branding as nothing but “putting yourself out there”. She emphasises that personal branding cannot be just a wish list because it is also who you already are as an individual and points to “authenticity” being the key to unlocking a successful personal brand presence on social media.
Jermina says informal personal branding happens on Instagram, Facebook, while twitter and Linkedin are apt for professional personal branding. Jermina presents her two avatars, one as marketer and digital marker and as retail expert. Best practices, achievements, pictures and stories of ones own experiences helps organically open conversations and strengthen professional connections.