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CMO50 2016 #26-50: Mohit Bhargava, Village Cinemas Australia

  • Name Mohit Bhargava
  • Title General manager - sales and marketing
  • Company Village Cinemas Australia
  • Commenced role September 2014
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 10 staff, 2 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Entertainment and retail
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    Village Roadshow is at the forefront of fighting piracy in Australia, according to Village Cinemas, general manager of sales and marketing, Mohit Bhargava, who says despite being one of the wealthiest and most law abiding nations in the world, Australians are some of the worst offenders of piracy.

    Recognising that young Australian’s are the most likely to actively pirate content, Bhargava says the company had a collective goal to introduce a series of initiatives that drive awareness of this issue within the target audience and to also motivate a change in behaviour.

    “Qualitative research indicates that people pursuing the arts are often opinion leaders within their peer groups, and we had an opportunity to be more effective if the message came from them instead of a corporate,” he says.

    “A key goal of this year is that the message and communication to the general public becomes more local and personal, which we believe this initiative will deliver in its first year. Not only do we want to drive change within our consumers, but for the entire industry as a whole.”


    From the CMO50 submission:

    Innovative thinking


    According to Bhargava, cinema is a unique retail environment where a majority of a film’s advertising and promotional budget is spent before tickets are on sale, creating a massive gap in the purchase funnel between awareness and consideration to when customers can actually purchase.

    Over the last 12 months, Village Cinemas has worked towards challenging this status quo by deploying data led tactics with a single minded goal of bridging the gap in the consumer’s awareness to purchase journey.

    Working with key suppliers, he says the company introduced category-first marketing strategies, which see cinemas and film distributors enabling third party user data sharing strategies to maximise reach across all consumers who have interacted with a film throughout its marketing cycle, in turn deploying programmatic media buys that bridge the gap and reconnect with consumers once tickets are on sale, maximising targeted reach and sales conversion.

    Village Cinemas has also collaborated with industry partners such as Val Morgan, Open Channel to introduce a platform called Unscene Films (www.unscenefilms.com.au). He explains how this platform gives young aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to submit short films each year that are showcased on the big screen in cinemas, and open an industry network for them to pursue opportunities in the industry in Australia.This year being the launch, the theme that young filmmakers are being confronted with is ‘piracy and its impact on your future’.

    Data- and technology-driven approach


    Bhargava says one of the biggest challenges for the group is transitioning from its bricks-and-mortar history into the omni-channel retail age. The company’s legacy is not in ecommerce or m-commerce, but in finding itself operating in that space: it’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of the sales mix, with 35 to 40 per cent of ticket sales now bought via mobile and desktop devices.

    “On one hand, Village is overwhelmed by the opportunities mobile presents in terms of furthering the customer experience on-premise. On the other, the business was somewhat paralysed by competing stakeholder interests and conflicting customer insights,” he says.

    As an optimum way to drive prioritisation of new digital enhancements for consumers, earlier this year the company introduced a new approach where it funnelled customer experience survey data and online analytics into the same forum. This brought subject matter experts measuring digital customer data and guest sentiment speaking as one to the executive team, who were in turn much better informed to be able to prioritise any new activity.

    A single minded view of customer sentiment, digital data and operations is fuelling the company's approach to efficiently and effectively introduce new and improved customer engagement initiatives faster and with greater cut through, he explains.


    Empowered and strategic thinking


    As a business, Bhargava says Village has taken some significant measures to place the customer at the centre of its go-to- market approach.

    The company introduced a NPS (Net Promoter Score) tracker and platform 12 months ago, which today drives prioritisation of all customer experience enhancements. It elevated focus customer data and behaviour, fuelled via a member first strategy when it comes to incentives and retail marketing via our customer loyalty program, which today represents a significant share of our revenues and growing.

    Customer Analytics led channel enhancements to the company’s ecommerce and point of sale infrastructure. Village surveys over one million guests annually across every touch point in their customer journey to ensure all our efforts are informed directly by customer feedback. The company has also incorporated involving our high value guests into our NPD process where deemed appropriate.

    Fostering agility

    Marketing at Village has embraced the agile approach introduced to the company via the IT and digital product teams. As a retail category, he says the product changes weekly, and the company needs to be extremely agile, constantly adapting its in-market activity and efforts to reflect customer interest and film performance.

    “One example of demonstrating agility is maximizing online sales via leveraging customer interest in real time; we have merged social tracking of films interest levels to inform real time bidding for search terms relating to movies on search engines,” he says.

    “The hype surrounding a film can be triggered by multiple variants, from a talent stunt through to trailer release, we track that via social channels and in turn optimise our ad spend across our entire product range on a high frequency basis.”

    Creativity

    Creativity is key to the business, not just on screen but in every aspect of the customer journey, Bhargava says. The company has a view that creativity can be compounded and made more meaningful when it has a deeper purpose.

    “Village has consistently challenged the status quo in the industry when it comes to ideation and delivery around marketing programs. One such example of this thinking is its Girls Night Out Program called ‘Flicks with the Chicks.’”

    He says typically all girls night programs tend to lend towards goodie bags, and partnerships with cosmetic brands, for example. Village this year challenged this status quo by not offering any of the stereotypical offerings, but instead partnered with Guide Dogs Victoria to adopt a puppy and send it to guide dog school, capture its journey and share major milestones with guests attending our events.

    “From a puppy learning how to board a flight through to resisting temptation, short videos were produced that were played before the film to share the journey with our guests. Six months into this strategy, the company has seen the engagement and advocacy with the program lift significantly and are seeing a lift in customer frequency.”


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