EXCLUSIVE: Data-driven design is the future of creative agencies: Madhavan Sankara of Madarth

image-Exclusive-Madhavan-Sankara-CEO-Madarth-quote-2-mediabrief-4-scaled.jpgMadarth, the independent branding, design, and digital agency was founded by the “left side of Madhavan Sankara and the right side of Siddharth Ganapathy” with a mission to turn indigenous products into Indian brands and the vision to transform Indian businesses into world-class brands.

We caught up with Madarth and its ‘left’ side and CEO, Madhavan Sankara, who told us about how Madarth works, how clients are now re-evaluating their focus on digital, the impact of Covid-19 on advertising, how brands are now concentrating more on their roots, and much more.

Tell us about Madarth, the idea behind its inception, its launch, and how were the early days in the market?

I

started Pixel Boy Media Publicities Pvt. Ltd, a holding company in the year 2005 as a Graphic Designer. From 2005 to 2010, the company was run as an all-in-one proprietorship firm. I had to don many hats as a content creator, strategist, designer, and marketer to offer various services to my clients.

In 2008, Siddharth joined as an intern for 3 months and during that course of time completed his graduate degree. He then joined us full-time as a designer. After we became a public company, I offered Siddharth the post of Director with 30% of the company’s proceeds. We wanted to grow organically and evolved from a design house to a creative agency that offered services in branding, design, and digital. Our motto was always putting the interests of our clients first.

The early days had its challenges, but as a company, we have witnessed the entire transition from a freelance company to a digital agency. This market shift was a first-time experience and we enjoyed every bit of that journey.

When was Madarth founded, how has the company changed in all these years?

M

adarth was registered in the year 2014. Initially, Siddharth and I wanted to create a comic and put it up on Facebook as a meme to troll bad designs, which was the then scenario of advertising in the city. It was conceptualized as two cartoon characters Mad and Arth, which was an amalgamation of my name and Siddharth’s.

In 2018, we moved to a bigger facility and wanted to rebrand the company with a better brand name. There was an identity crisis in Chennai with a few companies that had Pixels for their brand name.

Since Madarth was already registered we decided to stick on to it. The company has moved to a digital-focused brand with a full-fledged Tech, SEO and Marketing department – a successful transition to a holistic agency.

What is unique about Madarth, both in the services it offers and its ideologies?

T

here are 36 permutations and combinations in services that an agency can provide. When a company offers a plethora of services to a client, it will leave them confused as to what to choose or not choose. Since we have grown organically as a brand agency, our unique offering is that we provide a commitment to our clients, not just services.

We believe that as a company, we should stand to deliver for the outcome, not just the output. For this, we go through a rigorous discovery process and take a lot of time to identify the needs of the customer before we offer our commitment. We are extremely happy to do that and have built a solid reputation on it as well. Our website earlier states that we love client brands more than our brand.

Madarth believes that when an American or French brand can become global and woo Indians, Indian brands can also become global and create a similar impact across the world. Every country has its local brand that has made a huge impact in the global market. However, India is conditioned to be the back office of the world. That is why we as a company want Indian brands to become world-class. We work towards acquiring generational Indian family businesses and provide them with a proper structure and market them on the world stage.

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How large is the team and how is the work culture like at Madarth?

W

e are a 28 member team of creators, writers, strategists, tech experts, designers, search engine optimizers, and marketing executives to strategize, conceptualize, design, and execute for our clients’ requirements.

As a people-focused business, we foster a culture of freedom and responsibility and believe in delivering work that delivers results and delight clients. The company is relentless in creating communication that is intelligent and impactful.

Objectively how do you see the landscape of creative agencies in India, how do they compare to their global counterparts?

I

ndia has a tremendous opportunity for growth in the digital realm. Every established family business runs for generations which initially thought that digital was far ahead had now got into digital post the pandemic.

There are close to 450 million smartphone users in India. The pandemic has pushed everyone to look at digital seriously. The year on year growth is high and has now made people content-aware about things going on around them. That’s why marrying design and intelligence is vital. Data-driven design is going to be the future of creative agencies in India.

The English speaking population in India is in the urban regions. We have a large pie to cover to reach the length and breadth of our demographics. When we compare creative agencies to their global counterparts, there is solid evidence that India has become westernized and not evolved organically.

The Indian audience can relate to creatives designed by anyone in our country, even if he/she is a foreigner. We see a lot of our agencies create campaigns that are not “fully” Indian.

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How have brands changed their marketing approach in Indian Markets in the past few years?

F

or the past few years, the Indian market approach can only be treated as the time before and after the pandemic. Now, brands have inclined towards digital and post-Covid, that shift is complete. Digital has become the central platform to attract. All brands from every kind of industry have taken up digital to attract consumers.

Post the launch of the ‘Made in India’ and ‘Vocal for local’ initiatives a lot of brands have started leveraging on the Indianness of the products, what are your thoughts on this development and how can one do it the right way?

O

ur country is driven by emotional consumerism. Brands use different emotions to tug at the heartstrings and connect with customers in a bid to capture mind share. Be it the Kargil funds or Chennai Flood funds, most of the population has participated in large movements to support in the face of calamities. This is a sure indication of the emotional connection we share.

That being said, ‘Made in India’ and ‘Vocal for Local’ are both great and grand initiatives by the government to leverage people’s innate Indianness and leverage on their patriotism as well. But they must exercise with caution, as there is no one right way to do it and we are just getting started. India is considered as a manufacturing hub and businesses must make the best use of these slogans and also live up to it so that they don’t disappoint people’s expectations.

Everything is now available at the click of the button. If a business is offering a service or product, people have to be given the right experience throughout their buying journey from discovery to usage. If businesses adopt the ‘Made in India’ initiative, they can’t afford to produce substandard products.

That’s because Indian customers are aware of what to expect in a good quality brand. So, when customers discover a product from India, it should not compromise on quality. The ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative will only help if the quality and experience are on par with other established brands in the global market.

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How should brands effectively bring out the Indianness of a brand but at the same time not be jingoistic, or just pay lip service?

T

he heart of India is its diversity, so every Indian’s Indianness is prone to versatility. A brand should be agile enough, maintain that composure, and not brag about themselves too much. This truly exhibits the quality of Indianness. Modesty is a quality that’s engraved in many parts of our country and should be used in the right proportion, especially when it comes to branding.

However, every business and its brand is different based on their culture, traditions, and demographics. A brand or business needs to anchor in one place with a good foundation and attract customers with the right amount of messaging without bragging so that it does not just pay lip service.

Brands now bringing their roots to the forefront, for customers to see why do you think this is becoming increasingly popular?

B

rands can establish authenticity only by showing their roots. The world has become a global village and brands have decentralized their offerings by creating multiple smaller sets. To earn trust, brands have to showcase their authenticity to earn the trust of people. For customers, the authenticity factor is popular because that’s the trend now.

At the same time legacy brands that have been in the market for generations but were not ‘woke’ earlier are setting aside their history that does not match with the current social consciousness, what are your thoughts on that?

L

egacy brands have to establish their history. During earlier times, branding was predictable and that’s the reason it brought dependability. A brand that shows its worth by commitment is only a clear indicator that it’s predictable. Historical brands have been consistent in this.

No matter how big or small a generational business is, it is extremely predictable in its behavior. Even if businesses have missed the digital bus, they can move seamlessly from their brick and mortar space to the digital realm.

Will the market accept brands that talk about roots, as global brands?

A

ll global brands have talked about their roots such as Nike, Chanel, Apple, Microsoft, Gucci, etc. The market has been expecting and accepted brands like this. This is evident in the future as well.

Do you think Indian ads are touching a chord of nostalgia to connect with the audience, if so how?

C

ontent that ties with emotions gets shared. Emotion plays one or two beats extra when compared to any other content. The Indian audience is drawn to content that comes with an emotional touch. It may not necessarily be nostalgia. It can be another emotion like humor as well.

Do you think there has been a shift in the priority of Indian households in the past few years, if so what and how can brands leverage from these changes?

I

 don’t think there is any shift in the priority of Indian households. Any brand that’s watchful of data and what they are saying can sail through any kind of changes. For example, millennials in the 25-35 age bracket are comfortable with living in rentals and not buying their own homes. In 2019, 36% of those looking to buy homes are still in the 35-45 age group because younger millennials are choosing not to buy homes.

Every 30 hours the market changes to accommodate the new generation. These millennial generations have priorities more towards experience rather than the acquisition of wealth. Brands have to be cautious in leveraging such mindsets and changes over the years to create holistic experiences for every kind of consumer.

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What are some campaigns that Madarth executed that delivered remarkable results? (Case Studies)

O

ur client Sundari Silks, a 3rd generation business is a very traditional silk house that has over 140 years of weaving heritage. When they approached us for services in digital, our primary agenda was to take this brick and mortar business to the digital realm.

Our core strategy was to identify the right customer and not the wrong one. Fashion as a whole is a very subjective business and that’s the reason we didn’t want to bring negative reviews for the business. When it comes to buying wedding silks, the emotional quotient of the customer is very high. If Sundari Silks disappoints the customer in this particular segment, it will create negative publicity for them.

We were very particular in attracting the right customers and succeeded in it. A lot of amplification was done for the brand to post the pandemic to increase its business value and ROI. The brand has generated over 50k organic followers on Instagram and has achieved 3x sales on their website recently.

Your thoughts, please