Mayur Gupta, Gannett’s new Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, is behind some of the world’s biggest and most well-known brands — and their marketing campaigns.

Spotify? Freshly? Kleenex?

Gupta has worked with every one of them. And he’s brought a fresh perspective to the way they engage with customers and build awareness for their brands.

For example, ever heard of Spotify’s Wrapped campaign? You’ve probably seen these billboards or digital ads that incorporate real user behavior on the platform. They’ve been a big hit and something that people look forward to toward the end of every year.

The Spotify Unwrapped Campaign spearheaded by Mayur Gupta has become a yearly tradition that consumers look forward to.

Taking data and making it fun, relatable, and tangible is something Gupta excels at.

So, we were thrilled to get to talk with Gupta about his experience working with the big brands and how that translates to local businesses as well as where he thinks the future of marketing is going.

Tell us how your work and your experience with large companies can translate into some takeaways for local businesses.

Mayur Gupta is Gannett's Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer - he talks about becoming customer-obsessed.

Mayur Gupta, Gannett Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer

I fundamentally believe that the challenges and the opportunities for businesses are agnostic of vertical, size, and scale.

We are all obsessed by channels, and we are all obsessed by technology. But what we need is to become customer-obsessed, which means doing something in the short term that is more valuable to the customer than necessarily for the business. Because that choice in the short term inevitably pays off in the mid-to-long-term. That’s a very tough choice.

And that choice is equally hard whether you’re a startup or a small business as it is when you’re a big business. When you’re a big business, though, I think there are some things that get more expanded and fragmented into silos. Every big organization struggles with that.

But I think that at the end of the day, the principles to grow a business and to drive sustainable growth in a small business are pretty consistent with those principles for a big business. The definition of success is the main difference between the two.

That’s a great way to look at it. You talk a lot about the importance of building a brand and getting to that household name status. How can small and local businesses use those same principles to build their brand?

I think the mindset should be the same. What changes are your boundaries, your geographical scope, or your audience in a way. So, if I’m a small business, I’m assuming that I would really love to be the best of something in my local community. That’s my brand. But of course, if I’m Nike, then a small community now becomes the world.

But outside of that, the way I want my customers to think about me as a service provider, and as a business – AKA the brand – is the same no matter the business size. I want them to be emotionally connected with the service I provide.

For example, if I own a plumbing company, I want my local community to believe that that’s the most incredible business — not just based on the pricing and the quality of the work – I want them to say “They’re also great people. When they come out, they talk to you nicely, they really stand up for who they are. They actually live up to their name every day. And by the way, I’ve used them five times, and every single time they exceeded our expectation.”

That’s the trust. That’s what big brands are trying to do. That’s what small brands are trying to do. And at the end of the day, I think we all have overcomplicated the concept of brand building and brand marketing. It’s about delivering what you promised.

Gannett CMO & Chief Strategy Officer says brand marketing and brand building is about delivering what you promised.

That builds trust, and then trust builds the brand, and it builds an emotional connection. Because just a functional and utilitarian connection is not enough to drive growth. Users have so much choice and access, they will leave if they’re not getting that value and connection from your business.

How do you feel marketing and the customer experience and customer service play together?

It is a great question because I never thought that the three were disconnected — maybe in an operational landscape in an organization.

But I hope that every organization is going to look at all the pieces together. So, for example, your customer experience is incomplete without customer service, and perhaps more for a certain type of business than the other. But it’s a cog in the wheel. And as a matter of fact, marketing is just another one of those. So is your product experience. So is the customer service, your packaging, your distribution, your fulfillment — all of those things add up and makes up that experience.

Gannett Chief Marketing Officer Mayur Gupta says your customer experience is incomplete without customer service, and perhaps more for a certain type of business than the other.

So, I think at the end of the day, when all these pieces come together from a consumer standpoint, that’s what they call experience. And that’s how they define the value.

The challenge is that consumers do not see these fragments. So, when they pick up the phone, they expect that if I just gave you my name or I gave you my customer ID then why am I being asked to give it again if I’m talking to a third person? Or, you gave me this quote online when I was on your site, and I just walked into a retail store, so why can’t I use it?

So, from their standpoint, they don’t see the distinct pieces within an organization. The unfortunate part is the way many businesses are organized, they have those silos. And the experiences that they deliver as a business are a true reflection of how they are organized and how they operate.

But from a customer standpoint, they don’t care. They don’t think, “Oh, you are the head of online, so the discount code you are giving me will not work in your retail environment.”

So, those buzzwords around brand performance, customer service, and customer experience – those are only relevant to us. Not the consumer.

That’s a great point. So, you deal a lot in digital marketing, obviously. What advice would you give to a business owner just starting out running digital marketing?

I would say to use whatever marketing is relevant to your customer base. If your customer base is 80+ in a [Designated Marketing Area] where people are really living their life – they enjoy sitting on the patio, having morning coffee – then print is going to be best for you. And I can give examples of extremely disruptive direct to consumer fully online businesses where direct mail has been one of their best channels.

So, the challenge isn’t about print versus digital. It is about being contextual.

It’s about your customer’s media consumption and habits. And, again, we have to become truly customer-obsessed rather than channel obsessed so we’re reaching the right people based on what channels are relevant for their audience segment.

Gannett CMO Mayur Gupta says it's important to focus on the customer rather than on the channel when it comes to marketing.

Speaking of print advertising and our print readers, how do you feel LOCALiQ as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK is uniquely positioned to help business owners connect with their audiences?

For local businesses, it comes down to the questions of: Do I understand your needs, and can I predict your needs? Do I have the pipeline to connect with you and engage with you in the right way to inspire behavior? And do I have the technology to deliver that message to you?

The magic for a local business is the intersection of science, incredible storytelling, and technology, and those are the three areas that we can deliver on.

Mayur Gupta says that the magic for a local business comes at the intersection of science and storytelling.

I think when you connect creative storytelling with the science of understanding every household in the US, and you can bring that to local business owners and say “I know what your customers need and what they are looking for because they visit us every single day, and we can see what they’re engaging with.”

Everyday consumers are coming to our backyard [USA TODAY NETWORK sites] to consume content, and we know what they like and what they don’t like.

Looking ahead to 2021, what are some areas that you think local business owners or just marketers, in general, should focus on?

Something unique about 2021, is, hopefully, it is the year after the global crisis happened. And, maybe there are fragments of the global crisis still there, which will be something unique about next year.

And the global crisis has fundamentally shifted and changed human behavior for all of us. Perhaps not for our kids, or the Gen Zers — because for them, the virtual world is no different.

But millennials, Gen Xers, and people who would have never entered the virtual world were forced to enter and live that life.

So, the first shift for 2021 for local businesses is to understand that for their audience and how their customer base lives in a post-COVID world is going to be different than it was. A small percentage will return to how they lived before, but most people will have one foot in the virtual world forever, which means that the way local businesses have to think about engaging, awareness, education, and relationship now has to be living, breathing, and operating in that digital world.

So, I think that means they need partners and the ability to very quickly evolve themselves to not only stand up a business in a virtual world but to know how to run it every single day. Because that world operates very differently even compared to when you would go to a store around the corner to pick up your morning coffee. People are going to behave differently from this year onward.

The pandemic has impacted how businesses need to educate and connect with consumers.

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