Manish Shrivastava knows about powerful brands.
At the Coca-Cola Co. he held roles leading the brand team and the global and North American shopper marketing functions. At Home Depot, he managed a department that oversaw loyalty programs, Hispanic/African American marketing, marketing for contractors, and installation services. And, all of this came after he got his start in the famed Procter & Gamble brand management program.
The home building industry's brands may not have Coke's global reach, but Shrivastava, Pulte Group's new vice president and chief marketing officer, says brands are still important.
"Brand does play an important role for specific segments of the new-home industry and for certain steps in the consumers' decision journey," he says. "Our Del Webb brand is very strong because it has historically had a differentiated proposition that is valued by the target audience."
Through his tour of the Fortune 100, Shrivastava mastered online community development, consumer research, and brick-and-mortar retail. Philadelphia-based marketing expert Mollie Elkman, who worked on Baskin-Robbins and Asics and applied those strategies to home building, thinks this diversity bring a lot to the home building industry.
"When you think about marketing, it's not about the product," she says. "It's about the consumer. It doesn't matter what the product is. It's all about the strategy of connecting with the consumer."
Despite his diverse marketing resume, Shrivastava knows home building will present new challenges. Instead of simply spending a couple of dollars on a bottle of Coke, home buyers have to navigate a much trickier value proposition that includes the cost of the house combined with elements like location, amenities, and number of bedrooms.
"This industry has a very complex value equation that has to be fulfilled for a consumer," Shrivastava says. "Some of the other businesses I worked in were much more straightforward in value creation."
That means the marketer must know the customer. "One of our corporate priorities is being consumer inspired," Shrivastava says. "The consumer inspiration comes from a deep understanding of the consumer. What's their journey? What's important to them? Among those things that are most important, we need to make sure we are victorious. That will make the consumer buy our homes versus those of our competitors."
With the Internet and social media, there are myriad avenues for marketers to reach the customer. But those come with pitfalls, too. "When I started my marketing career at P&G, it was really straightforward," Shrivastava says. "If you produced a good television ad and spent money behind it, your brand volume typically went up."
The Internet and social media have changed that equation. Suddenly, there are a lot more ways to get your message out. That means you have to prioritize your marketing spend based on what consumer you want to reach and how they consume media.
"Now being a marketer is more difficult than 20 years ago because of fragmentation of media consumption by consumers," Shrivastava says. "We have to be thoughtful about where we place our media as well the content we put in our communications."
But there are benefits, as well. Customers "can take that message over and share it in liquid way," Shrivastava says. "Social media facilitates the ability to have a liquid message." He sees potential in using a variety of sources and opportunities for home building marketers to take customer outreach to a new level.
"There's an opportunity to inspire consumers visually," he says. "There's an opportunity to be smarter about how we invest out marketing resources across a variety of media. And, there continues to be an opportunity to be more differentiated versus one another."
In his relatively new role at Pulte, it sounds like Shrivastava will explore all of these opportunities and any others that he sees as he immerses himself into the world of home building.