Friday, July 20, 2018

Fun things that never happen to me...

I have been meaning to write something meaningful for last few days. But I was not able to work around my thoughts in a coherent manner. The meaningful thoughts, I mean. The thoughts that have a definite sense of purpose. I had almost decided to write about 'Corporate Etiquette'. But I didn't want to offend anyone. At least in July. I also was thinking about 'Life Goals' as a great topic for a blog post. But I can't write about something, I have a poor idea about. After all this struggle, I have succumbed to a click-bait title for my post. 'Fun things that never happen to me...'

But let me confess that I have no idea why I got attracted to this post title. I have really not much to say on this. I am not even sure if your idea of 'fun things', is same as my idea of 'fun things'. I am almost certain you didn't find the previous sentence fun. But I did! Hope you find things I am going to write about in next few paragraphs fun. I can assure you they never happen to me, keeping my side of the deal.

People around me are just losing weight by willing for it to happen. On the other hand, I am constantly being advised by my well-wishers (read total strangers) to join a group of runners or adopt the caveman diet. Do they realize that cavemen never had to sit in office late, scrolling through large datasheets?

My friends regularly post their encounters with celebrities on social media. Ok! Not regularly, but fairly consistently! When I used to stay in Mumbai, I often frequented the places, which are known for celebrity appearances. But I never saw or met any film actor worth his or her salt. I once attended an event in Delhi, where Boman Irani and Shahrukh Khan were on stage. But that doesn't count. Also if I pay for tickets to attend a play or a concert, that is not really an encounter. Once when we saw Govinda at Singapore airport, everyone ambushed him and I got cropped out of a probable memorable picture. I can still see my half desperate face in the one that actually got clicked. Once we were at Shoppers Stop, Juhu. My wife and my mother-in-law were the ones actually shopping. I spotted an obese man in a pink T-Shirt and brown shorts. He had a shabby stubble and uncombed hair. And wearing man-sandals. David Dhawan, the director of several hit Govinda films, was standing right in front of me performing a non-celebrity chore. My mother-in-law was enamored. He is not really the kind of celebrity, my friends post about on social media. Neither is Paresh Rawal, whom I spotted drinking at OnToes, Juhu once. Or Manoj Joshi who was eating a Vada Pav outside my college. Or Aftab Shivdasani, who was standing alone under a dark tree, in the night, waiting for someone outside a multiplex. Do my friends realize that when they put their pictures with a popular hot actress on facebook, I feel like killing them?

I always put a lot of thought when it comes to gifting someone. Sadly, I rarely receive gifts. People just have this special ability to forget me on my birthday or anniversary. But, whenever I receive a gift, I find it funny, that people know so little about me. I must have received 3-5 dinner sets over last few years. People bring sad souvenirs for me from their travels abroad or over-sized shirts from discount stores. Why I never get things I love? Just putting it out through this forum, that I like Liquor Bottles, Holiday Vouchers, Good Books, Music, Movies and Eating out. And if you are the cheap one and still want to be thoughtful, share your Amazon Prime Video password with me.

Lots of people value their work-life balance. I know this guy, who switches off his phone when he is on leave. There is no way you can reach out to him. It is a good thing actually. But he is such a brute, that he always finds it fine to call you late in the night or message you on a Sunday. Ironically, he works in Human Resources function. Once a girl, reached out to me on facebook for office work. I was on a holiday abroad and was unable to check my phone for few hours, so she found this route perfectly fine. She left her job few months later citing work-life balance issues. I envy both these people. 

I am sure there are many other fun things that never happen to me, but there is one funny thing, which happens to me every year once. My pay hike. Peanuts!

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Takeaways - CMOs at Work

CMOs at Work by Josh Steimle is not really a book. It is a compilation of 29 interviews conducted by him with 29 of the best marketing brains in the world. Some of the CMOs interviewed are really inspiring like Patrick Adams, PayPal and Jeff Jones, Target. Most of the interviews have some insights which are incisive and useful. 

The author here has done a good job of meeting so many CMOs from diverse industries. But I wish he had covered CMOs from across the world. That would have been a great comparative study for a person like me who is a student as well as a practitioner of marketing for years. Also Josh Steimle used, more or less, the same set of questions for different CMOs. I felt that was limiting. There should have been questions specific to the industry, each CMO is operating in and a focus on relevant cases / stories. That would have added a lot of depth to the responses of the interviewees. 

Nevertheless, here are some of my takeaways from this book, which will hold the test of the time. 

1. The role of CMO has moved beyond the classic brand building and advertising. It has evolved into a much more holistic role that straddles technology, customer service and CRM. Digitization and Automation have played an important role in this. 

I personally have felt these changes happening in the way my role and goals have shaped over the years. Reading this book assured me that I am on the right path and the marketer's role will evolve even further in ways not imagined in the past. I have also seen an integration happening across some verticals like PR, Internal Communication and Employer Brand with the Consumer Brand. No longer we can afford to see them in silos. In my current organization, the CEO is supportive of this approach and it helps in breaking down the silos faster. 

2. Data Science is assuming a higher importance & ROI for marketing is becoming much more sharply defined. 

I have witnessed this in digital marketing in India over last decade. But I still see a lot of digital quacks and charlatans peddling their substandard stuff around, because CMOs have not kept pace with changes here. These agencies and practitioners are very comfortable with likes, shares and other such engagement metrics, but they find it difficult to establish business metrics. As a marketer it is very important to be able to separate wheat from chaff. Also, the ROI for marketing will move beyond digital marketing, to traditional marketing as well, and we need to be ready for that. 

3. Team Building and Leadership Skills are two areas which CMOs need to look at more creatively. As marketing becomes more dynamic, content oriented and ROI driven, it is important to add diversity in your team rather than just running after MBAs. Also the team structures can't be as simple as Traditional Marketing and Digital Marketing. There is no differentiation at all between these things. 

I feel marketing teams have to be structured around skill sets rather than functions. Example a creative person has to support both branding and digital marketing initiatives. 

4. A new age marketer has to be a combination of a data analyst, creative designer and process engineer who can execute fast.

My direct reports who have done any of the above two right have generally grown faster than others. But I feel comfort with data, is something more marketing managers in India should develop. And soon.

5. Few things in marketing will never change

  • Brands should have a purpose
  • Focus on consumer understanding has to be always there
  • Data should supplement a marketer's judgement not replace it
  • Story-telling is always going to be a key skill
In the world of so much information and data, marketers should not feel that 'creative'  has become a bad word. I see that happening very often around me. Marketing has always been a whole brain function. We need to embrace the fact that more information is now available so our methods have to undergo a change. 

6. The book also warns CMOs against too much internal focus. One should never forget that marketing serves the customers and not different departments.

Many times, marketers face this dilemma. I think strict focus is required to know what to do. It is not easy, but that should be the goal. Customer should be at the center of everything you do. Sales will follow. 

It would be difficult to summarize everything from the book. But the 6 points above really nestled in my mind. One of the interviews though had a perfect answer to what really marketing is - Marketing has 3 focus areas: Data and Analytics; Marketing Technology; and Content and Thought Leadership.

As far as my reading targets go, I am on track so far. 12 books read and reviewed within 6 months of the year. 12 more to go...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Third Room

The house I stay in right now, has this small extra room, which we rarely use. We have partially converted it into a storage place. But my toddler often visits that room out of curiosity and explores the stuff lying there. Also as my parents and my niece were here recently, I used that room more often in last two weeks. One particular morning, when I was in that Third Room, I felt this strange sense of calm. Also I felt, I have been to such Third Rooms in past. Like that store room, in my grandparents' place which felt cold and haunted at times, but it had those large metal trunks, the ones that held blankets and rajais (bed quilts/duvets) and may be some secrets too. 

As a child did you ever escape into the world of your imagination while hiding in that metal trunk in the Third Room?

There was this cemented water tank on the second floor of the house I grew up in. Everyone stayed in that house - parents, brother, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. The space below that tank was a great way to hide from others and still enjoy the cold there in hot summers. The cold which might have frightened someone weaker than me. 

As a child did you ever think of yourself as a master strategist planning your next battle move lying on your back in a damp space of the Third Room?

The annual grains' supply for the entire joint family used to come in large gunny bags. For few days before the grains were transferred to the steel silos, the bags lied there in a corner in a bulwark formation. The evenings were really exciting. The cops chased all the robbers with their toy guns. The games we played revealed who were on the dark side.

As a child did you ever wait endlessly in the Third Room, behind a wall of gunny bags, to spring a surprise?

The Third Room is not really a physical space. It exists somewhere in our minds. As we grow up, we lock it up and forget about it. It is a place which is a great escape from our routine. It is a place to reflect upon the next move in your life. It is a place which might spring a pleasant surprise. The first two rooms are all about your family and your work. This Third Room is about you. It is time you find it and open it. The key is right there. There in your own hands.