Worked in: India, Dubai and the US
Lily Chakrabarty serves as a director on the Samsung Electronics team, and experience with international brands gives her a competitive edge in the ever-changing digital space on a global scale. She has worked extensively with technology client groups, and her ability to orchestrate dynamic marketing strategies underscores the key elements of innovation.
Why do people see you as an innovator? I would attribute any success I’ve made in innovation to energy. Call it the power of the “extra mile” or even call it relentlessness, but it’s the passion for and pursuit of innovation that makes it possible. It takes work and genuine dedication to find things that are not on the surface, evident, clear for all to see, easy for all to get activated. That’s often the only way to find the next best idea. Especially on a global scale, it is seldom easy to get anything executed without some customization to local markets and sensibilities; it is being relentlessly energetic about the ideas that helps get them to local consumers in the right ways across all these markets.
What is the biggest challenge you face in applying innovative thinking to international projects? A big challenge to driving innovation globally is to overcome comfort in the “tried and true.” The safe option that can be justified using past experience and no one usually gets fired for is the quickest way to become complacent. Another challenge is that innovation sometimes starts as a tactical execution in a specific country, which makes it challenging to translate without changes to other countries. While the solution to the first issue lies in getting rid of some inertia, the second challenge can be solved if innovation is based on human understanding or experience that can be adapted in a similar way across many countries, thus making it innovative and impactful wherever it goes.
Dictionary definitions aside, how would you characterize innovation in the work you do? Innovation is about breaking the existing rules and questioning WHY something is the way it is. It is in the questioning that rules can be bent, broken and transformed into something magical that no one has seen before.
Name an innovative idea or business solution for which you are most proud. Sometimes the simplest ideas make the biggest difference – it’s all about what the need of the moment is. Two ideas come to mind for innovative ideas I’m most proud of, and I’m proud of them because they demonstrate how the simple idea can rally the troops regardless of the challenge to create a real compelling experience.
In my client work, I work with my team on effecting an idea we call “reverse publishing.” In partnership with Conde Nast, we turned the tables on print and started a custom publishing program on the web. We asked readers what they would like to read about in their favorite magazines such as Glamour, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetite and Wired. Readers wanted to be heard and we provided that platform. Based on what they asked for, Conde Nast web editors created original content and this was showcased as a section in each book courtesy of Samsung. The simple idea of letting consumers have a direct voice in the content led to a successful outcome.
In pro bono work, I was able to help the Asian American Film Festival organization build their fan base, increase awareness and attendance in Chicago with another simple, effective idea. The L.A.-based festival organizers are a group of talented people with a lot of creative genius – but they lacked the resources and time to get their message to the masses in Chicago. Our team had a built a simple, grassroots idea and asked around to find out which supermarkets are the most popular among Malaysians, Indians, Koreans and Chinese. We reached out to the stores and their aisles during weekend grocery trips; hit up clubs that played Asian music or hosted Asian-themed nights; we went to large residential buildings known for a diverse population downtown and more. The social we board and networks we used to spread the word in those communities drove a 50% increase in ticket sales and a higher awareness of the program’s existence among Asian and other diverse young theater/film going population in Chicago.
What role does innovation play in your marketing strategy today? Innovation is what keeps the world moving ahead, and in my client’s case, what keeps their business going. In the consumer electronics space, innovation is the only game – and the relentless pace of this pursuit means not stopping and enjoying the accomplishments earned. It means forging ahead with the next advancement as soon as the last one has been thought through and carried out the right way, then learned from. Similarly, it is our goal to keep forging ahead with innovative ways to enhance the consumer experience with the brand. For example, in the last 3DTV launch, the innovation was the 3D experience – experience that no one had had before in their homes. To enhance it we created a first ever 3D viewing experience for the Oscars in the US while other parts of the world took this idea to other local events. Our innovation in our work was imperative to showcase the essence of the brand and the product.
Any other interesting aspects to your international background? I have traveled to over 40 countries so far… and I’m looking to go to many more in the future. I love picking up a few local phrases when I travel and then I like to incorporate them into my day-to-day language to spice it up and to get familiar with those words. So when I came back from Dubai last February, I could get back to work mode “shewi shewi” – meaning “slowly, slowly.” (Gotta recuperate that energy sometimes.)