Balaji Vaidyanathan is an integrated marketing specialist with 2 decades of experience in B2B and Consumer Marketing. As Director and Head of Marketing for Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEEMEA) at Franklin Templeton based out of Dubai, Balaji is responsible for building the marketing value proposition, brand, and digital presence, developing the strategic footprint across CEEMEA, performance managing regional teams, focusing on both institutional and retail businesses and driving marketing efforts for global and EMEA strategic projects, amongst other initiatives. Prior to this role, Balaji was with Franklin Templeton in their India office, leading all brand, advertising, investor education, and several other initiatives.
“When I joined Franklin Templeton in India in 2010, I was drawn to it because of its well-respected and established global brand, remarkable heritage, work culture, and other aspirational facets,”- Balaji recalled. “Coming from an Indian company, I saw the opportunity to grow through global exposure and the chance to work with teams across regions and functions. Having studied various aspects of the firm, I believed I had many ideas I could bring to the table, and I sensed that these would be well received.”
Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Franklin Templeton is a global leader in asset management with more than seventy years of experience worldwide. With 1300+ investment professionals spread across 23 countries, Franklin Templeton manages an AUM of $1.3tn, diversified across asset classes, geography, and client type.
Before joining the mutual fund industry, Balaji started his career as a group management trainee with the Aditya Birla Group, where he moved into a marketing role after an initial stint in sales. He was responsible for advertising & brand building, new product launches, managing the creative and media planning agencies, including ATL, communication, sales promotion, etc. After close to 5 years with Aditya Birla Group, Balaji worked with Lotus India Asset Management (now Invesco Mutual Fund) and then Edelweiss Financial Services in various capacities in the domain of marketing.
A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, London, Balaji holds an MBA in International Business from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi. Additionally, he also has a diploma in Digital Marketing from NIIT and the Digital Marketing Institute.
Over the years, Balaji has become an angel investor and a mentor to various- start-ups in the space of deep tech, EdTech, health tech, and sustainability. He is also a part of the Advisory Board (Middle East) for the global CMO Council, which presently has more than 15000 members from senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a wide range of global industries.
Changing Investors’ Mindset
Along with his team, Balaji is constantly striving to create awareness about the benefits of long-term investing. Their initiatives seek to equip investors with an understanding of the importance of planning for their long-term goals, particularly retirement, and make them appreciate the benefits of starting early, investing regularly, and staying invested for the long term to benefit from the power of compounding.
“In this era of easy credit and instant gratification, where everyone seems to be in the Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) mode, we need to try to inculcate better savings and investing habits,” Balaji explained. “This entails first setting income aside for investments and then spending what is left rather than investing what is left over after spending. Wealth creation is making one’s money work hard for you, which can only be done through discipline, long-term commitment, and astute planning.”
Balaji feels this is a fascinating and dynamic time due to rapid and exponential technological developments and the constant evolution of customer preferences and expectations. Thanks to AI, data, and analytics, predicting patterns in customer behavior has become much more straightforward, and data-driven marketing strategies have become less of a gamble than before. However, one can’t undermine the contribution of creativity, agility, and innovation to the mix.
A few of the marketing trends Balaji envisage revolves around using web 3.0 and tapping into the potential of the metaverse. “As customer journeys evolve, we will see more brands focusing on an omnichannel approach to influence customers’ decision-making processes, and products and services will offer more hybrid and cohesive customer experiences. We will have to face the challenge that brand loyalty will become a fading concept, and a customer is only as loyal as her last experience with the brand.”- he explained.
Additionally, he feels, Regionalization is another major emerging trend as targeting tier-1 audiences gets saturated. This, alongside deep customization, will be a great brand differentiator, and personalization will become the key to hearts.
Also, User-generated content has ushered in a new era that closes the gap between creators of content and their audiences. As a result, audiences now seek to interact with content and content creators and with each other. This tests a brand’s authenticity like never before but also opens the opportunity to collect valuable insights into target audiences and their preferences.
“From a marketer’s perspective, these are exciting times ahead, and one will need to consistently up his or her game to stay ahead of the curve and ensure their brand is able to become the preferred go-to brand for their customers.”– said Balaji.
Awards and Accolades
Over the years, several prestigious institutions and peers have acknowledged Balaji with various awards and recognition for his work. As a marketing leader, Balaji puts his heart and soul into every campaign he has spearheaded or partnered with, and he always feels a great sense of accomplishment when they meet their mark or help him learn new things.
“At the end of the day, it’s always about the trust you built for your brand amongst customers, the knowledge that your work has helped improve people’s financial futures and helped investors understand the importance of financial planning/ planning for one’s goals,”- he explained. “That is the ultimate satisfaction – when you see the customer had been able to reach her goals in the long term because she believed in your brand and narrative.”