Bhuvana Subramanyan

Chief Marketing Officer at Spinning Wheels

Deciphering the Evolution of Marketing with Bhuvana Subramanyan

Step into a world of marketing expertise and contemporary insights as we engage in a compelling conversation with Bhuvana Subramanyan, an accomplished marketing leader. With an illustrious career with leadership roles at IBM and Randstad, Bhuvana offers firsthand insights into the ever-evolving marketing landscape. Drawing from her experiences on both agency and client fronts, Bhuvana provides a glimpse into her podcast, 'Marketing the Untold Story.'

In this captivating conversation with Prateek Kalra, Associate Director - Sales at Pepper Content, Bhuvana Subramanyan, Chief Marketing Officer at Spinning Wheels, traces her journey from sales to marketing, dissects the dynamic contours of the marketing industry, and challenges the perception of marketing as merely a 'support function.'

1. Please tell us about your journey.

It might surprise some, but my marketing journey started back in the 11th grade, although it was more about sales than marketing. Over time, my focus shifted from sales to marketing, and my education in this field largely came from hands-on experience. During those early days, we didn't have access to the wealth of online resources we do now. Philip Kotler was our sole reference, and the rest of our knowledge was built through daily practical work, creating brands from scratch. That's how my fascination with marketing blossomed.

I've dedicated 27 years to this field, gaining experience from both agency and client perspectives. This dual experience has given me valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities on both sides of the marketing spectrum.

Apart from my professional journey, I've also delved into the world of podcasting, where I host a show called "Marketing: The Untold Story." My motivation behind this venture was to dispel the misconception that marketing is merely a support function. I've actively advocated for the recognition of marketing's significance within organizations. To achieve this, I've invited fellow CMOs from diverse industries to share their expertise on my podcast, covering various marketing facets.

"I think marketing has definitely evolved, one from a tech perspective, from becoming the face to the customer."

2. Can you highlight the changes in marketing and share your vision for its future, given its evolving role as a function?

I've witnessed a significant evolution in marketing, particularly from a technological perspective, where it has transitioned into the front-facing aspect of customer interaction. It's no longer a singular entity but a multifaceted field with distinct pillars: PR and communication, thought leadership, digital and social, and even collaborating closely with sales to manage leads and CRM. Interestingly, many marketers, myself included, used to shy away from math. However, early in my career, I grasped the importance of embracing data. As technology advanced, so did my affinity for tools, analytics, and data analysis, which is especially crucial for those in performance marketing seeking to optimize strategies and drive continuous improvement.

In recent years, marketing has earned a seat as an essential partner, guiding businesses through industry shifts, emerging technologies, and evolving consumer expectations. Marketers have willingly embraced the challenge of identifying growth opportunities while relentlessly pushing themselves and their teams to innovate continuously. Today, marketing is no longer just the go-to for creative ideas; it has transformed into a dynamic and relentless force. It's an exciting time to be in this field, with professionals from diverse backgrounds like engineers, bankers, and customer experts leaping into marketing due to its stimulating challenges and undeniable passion. Marketing has come into its own, and I'm proud to be a part of its journey.

3. What's your take on AI's role in marketing, especially with its presence in PR, social media management, and organic vs. non-organic discussions?

Embracing AI in marketing is pivotal for staying competitive in our data-driven world. Instead of fearing it, we should view AI as an enabler, empowering data-driven decisions. AI enhances marketing by enabling advanced personalization, improved customer experiences, and optimized digital advertising. It's invaluable for understanding user behavior and demographics and navigating rapidly evolving markets.

AI also plays a vital role in fraud detection, tackling clickbait and fake social media accounts through pattern analysis. Moreover, it streamlines operations, aids in content creation, conducts practical A/B tests, and offers predictive insights based on historical data. In today's customer-centric world, AI is not an option; it's a necessity for marketers.

"AI definitely has the potential to enhance marketing capabilities by enabling data-driven decision-making. Without AI, you're not going to be able to create advanced personalization, improved customer experiences, or even optimized digital advertising."

4. What is the top challenge for content creators today?

I believe the most significant issue for content creators is when they fail to take the time to understand their target audience's needs, interests, and pain points. It creates a noticeable gap in their content if they rely on briefs from clients, team members, or client representatives without diving deeper into audience understanding.

Now, let me add another crucial point. Content creators often overlook setting measurable goals for their content. When they don't appreciate the importance of tracking how well their content performs to increase website traffic, enhance engagement metrics, or drive conversions, they miss a vital aspect of marketing. Ultimately, the primary objective of marketing is to generate conversions and drive business growth. This understanding is essential, especially for content creators, as it shapes their content strategy and impact.

5. In your view, what's the ideal definition of good content and the critical steps in creating an effective content creation process?

Defining good content is a bit subjective; it's whatever sets your brand apart and resonates with your audience. Whether you employ cutting-edge VFX, stick to timeless methods like Amul, or even craft a simple, impactful one-liner like Zomato, it all qualifies as good content if it distinguishes your brand.

I believe effective content should contribute to the brand and drive conversions. Achieving this involves conducting a thorough content audit, identifying gaps and opportunities, and understanding your market, competition, and consumers. It's about creating high-quality content that aligns with your brand's voice and values. However, it's essential to be platform-savvy. Not every brand needs an omnichannel approach; it's about knowing what works where. Avoid the mistake of recycling the same content across all platforms without customization.

As a content marketer, it's your responsibility to plan, promote, and distribute content effectively. Continuous evaluation and data analysis are crucial to refining your content strategy. I strongly advise sitting down with your business, clients, and customers to gather firsthand feedback, ensuring a dynamic and ever-improving approach to content creation.

"In the last few years, marketing has also got a seat at the table. Because they become that essential partner, they can help the businesses navigate through industry shifts, emerging technologies, and changing consumer expectations."

6. What's your preferred marketing stack or the one you'd love to use if given the chance?

When it comes to marketing tools, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Relying on a single device won't cut it, as no machine can do everything effectively. I've found Salesforce to excel in CRM, offering robust capabilities. HubSpot has been my go-to for content creation, both inbound and outbound, with a solid CRM component. For email marketing, options like MailChimp or ConvertKit work well. Salesforce also covers email marketing, and for social media management, I prefer Hootsuite.

WordPress is user-friendly in content management and marketing, but HubSpot shines in content management systems (CMS). Google is king in SEO, while SEMrush offers diverse tools. Google leads in pay-per-click advertising, though Microsoft is developing its offering. When it comes to analytics and reporting, Google remains a frontrunner. Nevertheless, I've noticed emerging startups introducing comprehensive dashboards that consolidate data from various platforms. Marketers like me appreciate having all our data in one place, simplifying data analysis, and potentially reducing costs.

Complex licensing models can become burdensome for larger organizations, limiting access to critical dashboards. The evolving landscape aims to make marketing tools more accessible and user-friendly for entire teams. It's a positive shift that can enhance collaboration and efficiency in marketing efforts.

7. Could you share some details about your content marketing podcast?

When I began teaching at IIMs during the COVID pandemic and at leading marketing institutes, I noticed a significant gap in students' understanding of marketing. Many aspired to be digital marketers, but their concept of digital marketing was limited to social media like LinkedIn and Instagram. They lacked practical knowledge, making transitioning from academia to the job market challenging. This realization inspired me to start my podcast.

In the first season, I had the pleasure of speaking with prominent figures like Shraddha Sharma, a renowned storyteller, and Zepto, a platform featuring Indian case studies, which is a rarity. I aimed to explore how Indian marketers approached various aspects of marketing, including vernacular advertising and celebrity endorsements, and how these strategies differed from global practices.

The podcast delves into brands' marketing strategies across diverse industries, such as retail, e-commerce, and iconic brands like TTK. It highlights how these brands tell their unique stories and adapts to changing consumer preferences, making it a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the untold stories of Indian brands.

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