Marketing Game Changers 2021: Siddarth Sivaprakash, Home Centre

Head of marketing for Home Centre (MENA)

Years in current position: 2.5

Years with company: 2.5

Size of department: 11

Previous jobs

Group account director, BPG

Senior account director, Menacom (Partnership)

Head of creative strategy and content, Idea Spice Design

Recent campaigns

Launch of the brand’s 25th-anniversary campaign and customer proposition.

Launch of a campaign to reinforce the brand’s proposition around product ­quality and durability.

Launch of the Ramadan collection 2021, ‘Better Together’.

Launch of modular solutions, ‘Infinite Possibilities’.

Campaign to drive the brand’s strong value-proposition, ‘Incredibly Affordable’.

A category campaign for sleep solutions, ‘Take back bedtime’.

‘Start…’, a unique campaign to kick-start 2021 with more positive energy and strong call-to-action to get going with the new normal and not put life on hold any more.

What is your objective in your current role?

Over the last 36 months Home Centre has revamped its business model quite dramatically, from sourcing strategy down to product design, merchandising principles and customer segmentation. My role has been to take the lead on how marketing effectively communicates all these changes to our customers, how we guide and build a favourable perception in the minds of consumers and stay top-of-mind.

Do you have a guiding principle?

Don’t lose sight of the big picture, but ‘God is in the details’. Consumers today are savvier than they have ever been. Brands have to fight hard for share of mind and wallet and, while as marketers and advertisers we might take what we do more seriously than the next person, I think subliminally we notice the little details, the softer differences among brands.

How do you make agency relationships work?

By truly collaborating. As a brand team, we’re deeply entrenched in the process and don’t shy away from getting our hands dirty along with our agency partners. Having spent more than 18 years on the agency side across creative and account management roles, I understand the agency process and challenges. I believe that kind of perspective helps me ensure my team puts together more strategic briefs for our agency partners. As the brand team, the buck stops with us. Our agencies would only be able to deliver great work if the inputs we give them are pertinent and the objectives are clear. It also helps that my happy place is when I’m smack in the middle of the creative process; it’s where I thrive, so I try to get my team excited enough to dive right in. While most agencies might view this approach as a tad forward, I think they eventually appreciate an actively engaged client.

What work do you wish you had done?

Campaigns like Always’ ‘#likeagirl’, P&G’s ‘Thank you mom’ and pretty much every campaign by Dove are based on such solid human truths. Simple truths that span cultural differences.

Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’, for how bold a move it was. A brand that took a stand against all odds.

Coke’s ‘Open Happiness’, for how they consistently activated that brand platform across the globe, keeping it relevant to each market.

Who inspires you professionally?

Not ‘who’ as much as ‘what’ and that would be: ‘There’s always a better way of doing things.’

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

The high level of fragmentation in channels, messaging and expectation of hyper-customisation is a daunting task.

What is the next big opportunity in marketing?

Mining and making sense of the stacks of data that organisations are sitting on will continue to yield more efficient and targeted ways of reaching out. However, I still firmly believe that sticking to the basics of telling a compelling story is key. The formats may change, but we are still emotional beings who instinctively react to emotional triggers. So, identify your brand persona and work from there. Make meaningful connections and the rest will follow.

Recent achievements

Ensured the brand came across as empathetic during the pandemic. A trusted partner that our customers could count on for content that was meaningful, relevant and helpful in a period when most of us were spending more time at home than ever before.

Took a unique approach to Ramadan (in a pandemic year) while highlighting our exclusive collaboration with Lebanese-American designer Farah Mehri.

Launched a campaign to highlight Home Centre’s modular solutions programmes.

Currently involved in planning and execution of the 25th-anniversary milestone, followed by a big reveal for the brand.

Reinforced our stand on normalising the narrative around single mothers in the region.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
The big reveal for Home Centre.

Who are you following?
James Smith (for abrasive truth bombs and general bad-assery).

What are you craving?
A get-away.

What are you hiding from?
My gym routine.

What are you playing?
Not yet, but I want to check out Padel tennis.

What are you listening to?
A lot… from Pressure Machine by The Killers and indie singer-songwriters to Senjutsu by Iron Maiden (and
then some).

What are you reading?
Shoe Dog (it’s an old one, but do you see a pattern here?).

What are you watching?
Ted Lasso (I recommend it as essential viewing for the times).

What is your good habit?
I’m optimistic and a little relentless.

What is your bad habit?
I’ve been known, at times, to rely a little too much on my optimism.

Agency reference

Tahaab Rais,  regional head of strategy and truth central MENAT at FP7 McCann

Home Centre is profitable. Home Centre is performing. Home Centre’s brand visibility and reputation and creative credentials have grown in the past two years. And it has won more awards globally than any other retailer from the region in the past year. Credit for that goes to Sid’s trust, his leadership and his creatively-driven marketing approach.

Among all of the above achievements, the biggest one in my books has been the way he navigated the tricky idea we had around ‘A Dad’s Job’, focusing on single mums. His absolute trust in us to do the idea in a way that would resonate, his presence on the shoot, his guidance throughout the campaign and his unending support for the cause showed me a marketer who knew what it takes for a brand to succeed in today’s world. And the fact that the work has won the first Grand Prix for the region at WARC’s Global Awards for Effectiveness and Jay Chiat’s Strategy Awards is the biggest recognition for a brand out here and the biggest nod to Sid’s ability as a marketer.